Sanofi-Aventis posted a forecast-topping increase in net income today on the back of cost-savings, as revenue growth was pegged back by generic competition to four products in the USA.Sales rose 4% to 7.08 billion euros ($9.1bn), with a particularly strong performance by the firm’s vaccines business which saw revenues leap 60% to 568 million euros, while net income rose 15% to 1.79 billion euros, or around 1.33 euros per share.The figures prompted Sanofi to raise its earnings per share growth forecast to 12% from 10%.The start of competition from copycat versions of the antihistamine Allegra (fexofenadine), as well as the diabetes drug Amaryl (glimepiride), rheumatoid arthritis treatment Arava (leflunomide) and DDAVP (desmopressin) in the USA during the latter half of 2005 offset good growth from the diabetes drug Lantus (insulin glargine) and solid performances from the antithrombotic Lovenox (enoxaparin) and Sanofi’s Stilnox/Ambien (zolpidem) sleeping pill franchise.Second quarter sales of Lovenox were up 14% to 614 million euros, helped by increased use in prophylactic indications, while the antithrombotic Plavix/Iscover (clopidogrel), sold by Bristol-Myers Squibb in the USA, rose 11% to 565 million euros, a little slower than expected. The best growth came from Stilnox/Ambien – up 47% to 467 million euros – and Lantus which rose 40% to 421 million euros.But with a number of its top products facing generic competition from 2008, Sanofi needs new products to step into the breach, and has high hopes for the obesity and smoking cessation product Acomplia (rimonabant) which debuted in the UK in June but has been delayed in the USA. The company now says it expects to launch Acomplia in the USA before the end of the year.Meanwhile, Sanofi had no news on Multaq (dronedarone), a drug for cardiac arrhythmias which is still languishing at the FDA despite being submitted for approval in July 2005.The vaccines divisions was boosted by a $150 million contract from the US government to supply H5N1 pandemic flu vaccine and good early sales of meningitis shot Menactra, launched in the USA in March 2005 and adding 65 million euros to Sanofi’s coffers, as well as Adacel, an adult tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis booster launched in the USA last July which contributed 47 million euros.Plavix litigationMeanwhile, Sanofi-Aventis said it expects Plavix partner Bristol-Myers Squibb to resume patent infringement litigation with Canadian generics manufacturer Apotex, now that the agreement between the two companies to delay the launch of the latter’s version in the USA has been ruled unlawful. That agreement is also being probed by the US Department of Justice.Top 10 products by first half 2006 sales

  1. Lovenox EUR 1.24bn +15%
  2. Plavix EUR 1.15bn +16%
  3. Stilnox/Ambien EUR 908m +28%
  4. Taxotere EUR 886m +11%
  5. Eloxatin EUR 874m +16%
  6. Lantus EUR 803m +41%
  7. Copaxone EUR 534m +25%
  8. Aprovel EUR 498m +12%
  9. Tritace EUR 483m -0.4%
  10. Allegra EUR 369m -57%
Source: Sanofi-Aventis