Bristol-Meyers' stock dips on fears of its generic rivals


Sun, Aug 06, 2006 - Page 11

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co stock sank Friday on speculation that its best-selling drug could face generic competition this year. Shares of Sanofi-Aventis SA, which markets blood thinner Plavix with Bristol-Myers, also fell on the news.

David Snow, CEO of pharmacy benefits manager Medco Health Solutions Inc, said on a conference call the company expects a generic version of blood thinner Plavix could launch later this year.

Medco spokeswoman Jennifer Luddy said the company had heard "market chatter that the generic could be available" and felt it was important to mention on the conference call because it could affect the company's earnings. Generic drugs are cheaper than their name brand counterparts and are more profitable for companies like Medco.

Luddy said she couldn't elaborate on the source of information and the company wasn't predicting there would definitely be a generic version of the drug.

Bristol-Myers shares fell US$1.36, or 5.7 percent, to US$22.43 on the New York Stock Exchange. Meanwhile, US shares of Sanofi-Aventis dipped US$1.68, or 3.6 percent, to US$45.24. Plavix is Paris-based Sanofi-Aventis' second best selling drug. Medco shares rose US$1.50, or 2.5 percent, to US$60.60.

The blood thinner's sales totaled US$5.9 billion last year. It is the second best-selling drug in the world after Pfizer Inc's cholesterol medicine Lipitor.

Canadian generic company Apotex Inc was challenging Plavix's patent and a trial was set to begin two months ago. However, Bristol-Myers and Sanofi-Aventis had reached an agreement to pay Apotex at least US$40 million so it wouldn't launch a generic version of Plavix until 2011.