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Sanofi's Lovenox Secure for Now

An appeals court reverses a decision by a district court in a patent case.

A federal appeals court has given


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a temporary reprieve in a patent fight over its best-selling drug, the anticoagulant Lovenox.

The appeals court on Monday reversed a June decision by a federal district court in California that had granted summary judgment to a pair of generic-drug companies who had challenged two Lovenox patents. The appeals court sent the case back to the trial court.

In doing so, however, the appeals court agreed with some of the trial court's findings that

favored the arguments of Israel's

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries

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and the privately held

Amphastar Pharmaceuticals

of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

Still, the appeals court remanded the case because it disagreed with the district court's ruling that Sanofi-Aventis intended to mislead the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in its fight with the generic companies. Despite the high-stakes challenge to Lovenox, shares of Teva and Sanofi-Aventis barely budged. Sanofi-Aventis' shares rose 21 cents to $45.60. Teva's stock was off 19 cents to at $39.71.

Lovenox produced $2.59 billion in sales last year, or about 8% of Sanofi-Aventis' revenue. The injectable drug is approved for preventing deep vein thrombosis, the development of blood clots in the legs. The clots have the potential to move to the lungs and cause severe damage or death. Additionally, Lovenox is given to patients undergoing abdominal surgery or knee-replacement surgery, as well as to hip-replacement surgery patients during and after their hospitalization.

The drug is also prescribed for patients who are at high risk for clots due to restricted mobility during an acute illness, and it's prescribed to treat complications for patients with a certain type of heart attack or chest pains associated with heart disease.

The former independent company Aventis sued the two generic companies in August 2003 for patent infringement, triggering a 30-month stay on the companies' efforts to sell a generic version of Lovenox. The district court's ruling, if upheld, would have lifted the stay. Aventis merged with Sanofi-Synthelabo in 2004.