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Aventis Pharmaceuticals Sues Firm

April 1, 2002

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NEW YORK (AP) _ Aventis Pharmaceuticals Inc. has filed a patent infringement suit against Impax Laboratories Inc. over Allegra-D, one of the medicines in its popular family of allergy drugs.

Two months ago, Hayward, Calif.-based Impax announced the Food and Drug Administration had accepted the company’s application to produce a generic form of Allegra-D. Impax said its product does not infringe on Aventis’ patents.

``We intend to vigorously defend our product and believe that this is just a tactic by Aventis to delay our approval,″ said Impax co-chief executive Barry R. Edwards.

Aventis filed the suit in late March in federal district court in Delaware. Aventis spokeswoman Lisa Kennedy said the Allegra family of drugs has patents that expire between 2012 and 2017. She said the company doesn’t break out sales of the different Allegra products but said the group had revenues of 1.496 billion Euros last year. Impax said Allegra-D had U.S. sales of more than $350 million last year.

Allegra-D is a combination of a decongestant and an antihistamine. Allegra is just a decongestant.

Last year, an FDA advisory panel ruled that Allegra, Pfizer’s Zyrtec and Schering-Plough’s Claritin were all safe enough to be sold over-the-counter. A final decision by the FDA is expected soon.

Last month, Schering-Plough said was moving to switch Claritin to over-the-counter by the end of the year. But Kennedy said Aventis opposed any forced switch. ``Any decision about our products should be made by us,″ Kennedy said.

Aventis shares were up 47 cents to close at $69.22 on the New York Stock Exchange Monday, while Impax shares were down 2 cents to close at $6.92 on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

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