Hospira shares rise after Sanofi cancer drug OK’d

By Reuters
Posted March 9 at 11:38 a.m.

Hospira won approval for the first U.S. generic version of Sanofi-Aventis SA’s big-selling Taxotere cancer drug, sending Hospira shares up 2 percent.

U.S. sales of Taxotere, an infused chemotherapy known generically as docetaxel, were $1.2 billion last year, according to Hospira. JPMorgan analyst Chris Schott said recently that U.S. approval of generic Taxotere was the most important near-term catalyst for Hospira’s shares.

Taxotere lost U.S. patent protection in November, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration wanted changes to the packaging and labeling of Hospira’s product before granting approval, a Hospira spokesman said.

Sanofi, whose shares fell 0.5 percent in Paris, said it has braced for the arrival of generic rivals to Taxotere and included the impact in its 2011 forecast.

Indeed, the French drugmaker’s U.S. Taxotere sales slumped 28 percent in the fourth quarter because wholesalers were anticipating the arrival of a generic.

Hospira, in its 2011 financial forecasts last month, assumed it would start U.S. sales of a generic Taxotere. The company, a large maker of injectable drugs, already markets docetaxel in Europe and Australia.

Taxotere is used against various cancers, including breast, prostate and lung.

The Taxotere approval comes just days after Hospira named Michael Ball, president of Botox-maker Allergan Inc, as its new chief executive officer.

Hospira shares were up 2 percent at $54.69 in midday trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Shares of U.S. drug wholesaler AmerisourceBergen Corp , a major distributor of cancer drugs, were up 1.8 percent. Amerisource holds an estimated 55 percent of the specialty drug distribution market, according to JPMorgan.

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