French drugmaker Sanofi-Aventis says that the US District Court for the Southern District of New York has set April 5, 2006, as the trial date for the Plavix (clopidogrel) patent litigation against Apotex Inc and Apotex Corp.

In what has to date been a complex and drawn-out case, which concerns only the US market, Canadian generics group Apotex has disputed the validity of one of the Plavix patents. The compound’s patent protection is not due to expire until 2011, but Apotex maintains that it is not genuinely new and is seeking clearance to commercialise generic copies.

According to analysts at Merrill Lynch, a judgement favorable to the generics firms would have a dramatic impact on Sanofi-Aventis’ US sales, pushing them from around 2.5 billion euros this year to just 600 million euros in 2006, plummeting over 75%. Furthermore, as Plavix currently accounts for around one tenth of the company’s profits, net earnings could fall around 15% over the next few years.