(CN) - A federal judge in Manhattan put to rest a seven-year legal battle between Bristol-Myers Squibb and a Canadian drugmaker over the rights to the main ingredient of Plavix, the most prescribed blood-thinning agent in the world. U.S. District Judge Sidney H. Stein granted Bristol-Myers and Sanofi-Aventis' motion for a protective order and to quash subpoenas issued by Apotex.
Apotex, based in Toronto, briefly sold the generic equivalent of Plavix, which is designed to prevent heart attacks and fatal blood clots. It's taken by 48 million Americans daily and has annual sales of around $6 billion.
In 2006 the judge found that Bristol-Myers held the exclusive patent for the active ingredient in Plavix, clopidogrel bisulfate, and issued a permanent injunction barring Apotex from launching the generic product. The patent expires in November 2011.
But the Canadian company sought additional discovery regarding Sanofi's purported interest in launching an "authorized generic" of the drug.
"Apotex's stated purpose in issuing subpoenas to [Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.] is to seek information about Sanofi's communications with third parties about the possibility of launching an authorized generic and about its marketing and pricing of Plavix," the judge stated. "Neither area of discovery is relevant to the damages phase of this litigation. Accordingly, Sonofi's motion to quash the subpoenas is granted."
Stein added: "Discovery ... is not intended to be a fishing expedition ... [and] requests cannot be based on pure speculation or conjuncture."
New York based-Bristol-Myers markets Plavix in the United States and shares the profits with Sanofi, headquartered in Paris. It was the third highest-selling prescription drug in the world as of 2008.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.