Plavix Lawsuits Haven’t Hurt Sales

Despite a growing number of lawsuits that have raised questions about its effectiveness and safety, <"">Plavix is still a big seller for Bristol-Myers Squibb and Sanofi-Aventis. According to Bristol-Myers Squibb’s latest earnings report, Plavix sales increased 17% over the year-ago quarter.

That makes Plavix Bristol Myers Squibb’s best selling drug. But that’s not likely to last, according to a report from The Motley Fool. The patent for Plavix is set to run out next May, and generic competition will likely hurt sales of the blood-thinner.

As we’ve reported previously, Plavix is also the subject of lawsuits alleging its makers failed to adequately research their medication or warn about the risk of Plavix side effects, which could increase the risk of serious and potentially life-threatening complications. Earlier this month, dozens of Plavix injury lawsuits were centralized in New Jersey, and transferred to Superior Court Judge Jessica R. Mayer in Middlesex.

More than 40 people throughout the county have filed Plavix lawsuits. According to plaintiffs’ attorneys, thousands of addition Plavix lawsuits will likely be filed in New Jersey state courts, where Sanofi-Aventis is headquartered and Bristol Myers Squibb has five facilities, in the coming months.

The plaintiffs in Plavix lawsuits claim the drug’s benefits were overstated, and that it is no better a blood thinner than aspirin, but carries more side effects. Users of the drug also allege that they have suffered a variety of injuries, including gastrointestinal bleeding, severe ulcers, heart attacks, strokes and the rare blood disorder thrombotic thrombocytopenic purport (TTP), because of Plavix.

Recent studies have lent credence to these allegations. For example, one conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that compared Wafarin (another blood thinner) with combination Plavix-aspirin therapy found the risk of hemorrhaging among people treated with the Plavix combo was significantly higher than previously thought. Another study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that patients taking Plavix are 12 times more likely to suffer recurrent ulcers and Plavix gastrointestinal bleeding than those who received a combination of aspirin and a heartburn pill.

Many of the lawsuits were filed after a black-box warning—the U.S. Food & Drug Administration’s strongest safety warning—was added to Plavix’s label in March 2010. The Plavix black box warned of “diminished effectiveness” in patients who metabolize the drug poorly. Doctors were to counsel these patients that Plavix will cause them to bruise and bleed more easily, and that it will take longer than usual to stop bleeding.

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