Sanofi-Aventis, Inc.

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Sanofi-Aventis began as a French chemicals, textiles, and medicine manufacturer in the late 1920s under a different name. Its modern history begins in 1973 when the original company’s infrastructure was acquired and the brand was named Sanofi. At this point, it began pouring money into pharmaceutical research and developed lucrative anti-platelet and anticoagulant drugs. In 1994, Sanofi entered the United States market by acquiring the US company Sterling Winthrop. It continued to grow aggressively, merging with the French company Sythelabo in 1999.

Aventis was originally a German company which developed from another 1999 merger between Hoechst Marion Roussel and the French company Rhône-Poulenc S.A. Sanofi and Aventis finally merged to create the modern day company, Sanofi-Aventis, in 2004.

At various times, the company and its subsidiaries have been involved in agriculture science and genetic modification, chemicals, veterinary products, pesticides, biotechnology, and cosmetics. Since 2008, the company has spent over $17 billion acquiring different companies all over the world to expand their global reach and profit margins. They have bought major drug manufacturers and developers in India, China, Brazil, Europe, and the United States. The United States branch of the company focuses on vaccines, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, and oncology (cancer treatment).

Today the company is one of the world’s largest publicly traded pharmaceutical companies, with around 100,000 employees worldwide and a market value of around $134 billion.

Recent Litigation

The American division of the Sanofi-Aventis Corporation is currently facing over 700 lawsuits filed by women across the country for falsely marketing the breast cancer chemotherapy drug Taxotere as safer and more effective than the generic, original drug, Taxol. The multidistrict litigation also alleges that the company hid the toxic side effects of Taxotere, such as the possibility of permanent hair loss.

In addition to this particular lawsuit, like many pharmaceutical companies, Sanofi-Aventis has a long history of legal battles. Pharmaceuticals are extremely profitable enterprises and can afford extensive legal coverage and long battles in court. Fines and settlements of $15 million to $1 billion are fairly common within the industry, which can mean that the companies have little to fear from regulatory bodies and lawsuits. Sanofi is currently in the midst of multiple other lawsuits and has paid tens of millions of dollars in fines over the past few couple of years alone for various practices that have put profit-making above the health and safety of its consumers. The following is just a short sampling of the company’s recent missteps.

Veterans Affairs

In April of 2017, Sanofi-Pasteur, the vaccines division of Sanofi-Aventis, agreed to pay $19.8 million in fees to the United States government to resolve the claims that it overcharged the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on two separate occasions between 2002 and 2011. This payment was mandated due to a law which prohibits pharmaceuticals from selling drugs to the government for more than a maximum calculated amount, known as the Federal Ceiling Price (FCP). Sanofi-Pasteur miscalculated this price for multiple drugs sold to the VA.

The Director of the Healthcare Resources Division of the VA, Mark Myers, commented that “Overcharging VA depletes funds that are available to care for our veterans.” In addition to the $19.8 million payment, Sanofi-Pasteur has agreed not to seek reimbursement in the future for miscalculations which result in an underpayment by the VA.

Insulin Price Fixing

In March of 2017, a class action lawsuit including 69 plaintiffs was filed against three major drug manufacturers, Sanofi-Aventis, Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly, and the three largest pharmacy benefit managers, CVS Health, Express Scripts and OptumRx, which manage benefits for over 180 million people in the United States. This current lawsuit alleges that these corporations worked together to manipulate the industry into purchasing particular drugs, such as insulin for diabetic patients.

After pushing companies to adopt these particular drugs under their plans, the pharmaceutical companies were allegedly able to coordinate higher prices for the drugs, a practice called “price fixing.” This resulted in 150% increases in insulin prices for the three companies, and a major influx in profit. The companies are charged with racketeering, breaking federal antitrust statutes, and laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. When reached for comment, “Spokesmen for Express Scripts and Sanofi denied the allegations and said the companies would defend themselves vigorously.”

Meningococcal Vaccine

Only a couple of months earlier, in January of 2017, Sanofi’s vaccine division in the United States agreed to pay $61.5 million to settle a class-action lawsuit that it had been fighting in court for years. The lawsuit alleged that the company’s pediatric vaccine marketing tactics artificially inflated the price of the meningococcal vaccine for children and teens, sold as Menactra. The vaccine is used to prevent severe bacterial diseases such as meningitis. The class action represented around 25,000 physician practices, 1000 hospitals, 2000 pharmacies, and 100 wholesalers.

The lawsuit claims that Sanofi purposefully prevented its competition from participating in the market by forcing health care providers to buy Sanofi’s vaccines in bundles when its competitor introduced a meningococcal vaccine on the market in 2010. The bundles contained other important pediatric vaccines that were not provided by the competition and the bundles were “discounted” to the usual price. If the health care providers chose not to buy the bundle, they would pay substantially more for each of the vaccines. This effectively gave providers no option but to purchase all their vaccines from Sanofi. Although the settlement of $61.5 million may seem substantial at first glance, this only represents about 14% of the overpayment profits that Sanofi received from this marketing practice, a total of around $438 million.

Delay of Multiple Sclerosis Drug

Another ongoing lawsuit against Sanofi alleges that the company purposefully stalled the development and production of a multiple sclerosis drug called Lemtrada in order to avoid promised payouts its shareholders. The American Stock Transfer & Trust Company, LLC has filed the lawsuit on behalf of the shareholders in November of 2015 and it claims over $236 million in damages.

The issue in question began in 2011 when Sanofi acquired Genzyme Corp. In order to make the deal, they struck an agreement with the shareholders that stated that they would get payouts if Lemtrada was approved by the FDA by the end of March 2014 and brought in $400 million in sales. The lawsuit claims that Sanofi purposefully filed an inadequate application to the FDA and a poorly designed trial so that they would not have to pay the shareholders. Instead, the company “actively promoted” a different multiple sclerosis drug called Aubagio, so that they sales would not meet its mark. If true, this would represent yet another instance of Sanofi putting its own profit before the safety and tested the effectiveness of its products.

Compensation for Victims of the Pharmaceutical Industry

The previous list, again, only represents a very small number of the many lawsuits that this company has faced in the US alone. It is no secret that pharmaceuticals are companies whose primary interest is making money and keeping their shareholders happy with consistent and substantial returns. If people do not stand up to these corporations when they coerce, manipulate, or lie to their consumers, there is little chance that they will change on their own.

It can be daunting to imagine going up against such an influential, faceless corporation, which has a virtually endless supply of resources with which to defend itself. Hundreds of other people who are in your same position, however, can make the task easier. Multidistrict litigation allows people to pool their resources in order to make a case against large and intimidating companies. In addition, the sheer number of cases involved can work to show how many people were negatively affected by a corporation’s actions and help convince the court of the defendant’s guilt.

If you or a loved one suffered from undisclosed toxic effects, such as permanent hair loss, after taking the chemotherapy drug Taxotere, it may be time to file your own lawsuit. This drug is manufactured and aggressively marketed by Sanofi-Aventis and two years of litigation against it will soon come to a head. To participate, you do not have to join a pre-existing lawsuit; your particular concerns and experience will stand on their own. Nevertheless, you will receive the support of the ongoing lawsuit and the legal resources provided by large-scale multidistrict litigation. To learn more, call trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian today at (410) 560-4999 or contact us online.

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