* Sanofi calls decision over Acomplia suit "disappointing"
* Company and two ex executives still face legal action
* Five former executives win dismissal of suit
By Caroline Jacobs
PARIS, March 31 Sanofi-Aventis (SASY.PA) lost a
bid to dismiss a U.S. lawsuit launched by an investor for
allegedly withholding information on its flopped anti-obesity
pill Acomplia, which was once seen as a potential blockbuster.
The French drugmaker said in a statement on Thursday it
would "continue to defend its interests" after a U.S. court
denied its motion to dismiss the suit against Sanofi itself as
well as former Chief Executive Gerard Le Fur and its head of
pharmaceutical operations Hanspeter Spek.
U.S. District Judge George Daniels, in a decision handed
down on Wednesday, did agree to dismiss the complaint against
five other former Sanofi executives.
Rimonabant, which was branded in Europe as Acomplia and in
the United States as Zimulti, never made it to the world's
biggest drug market and was withdrawn in Europe.
Its failure led to the departure of Le Fur, who in his
previous role as research and development head had overseen the
The investor, Carrie Smith, originally filed the lawsuit
seeking class action status in the U.S. District Court in
Manhattan in 2008.
FAILURE TO DISCLOSE
Smith alleged that she and other investors suffered damages
from Sanofi's failure to disclose key data that questioned the
While the case was dimissed in 2009, the court a year later
granted a motion by the plaintiffs to reconsider, reopening the
The suit's other defendants included former executives
Chairman Jean-Francois Dehecq, R&D head Marc Cluzel and Finance
Director Jean-Claude Leroy, U.S. Chief Medical Officer Douglas
Greene and Sanofi's current Chief Medical Officer Jean-Pierre
Sanofi said it was pleased with Daniels' decision to dismiss
the suit against the five ex-executives but disappointed the
judge had kept it alive against the drugmaker and its former CEO
and head of pharmaceutical operations.
"Sanofi-Aventis believes its actions were appropriate and
will continue to defend its interests," it said.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) questioned the
drug's safety in 2006 and had sought more information on its
efficacy and safety in tackling obesity after turning the drug
down as an anti-smoking treatment.
Concerns over possible risks of suicidal thoughts tied to
the drug led an independent panel of health experts in 2007 to
unanimously advise the health regulator to reject the drug for
marketing approval, prompting a steep drop in Sanofi shares.
Sanofi then decided to withdraw its U.S. new drug
application for rimonabant.
Under current Chief Executive Chris Viehbacher, Sanofi has
branched out to make it less dependent on pure pharmaceutical
business and include growth areas like consumer health,
emerging markets and, most recently, rare disease through its
takeover of U.S. biotech group Genzyme GENZ.O.
(Editing by David Holmes)