A French-based healthcare company, Sanofi-Aventis (today named merely Sanofi) is a global presence with US operations based in Bridgewater, New Jersey. Sanofi employs more than 15,000 people all around America and strives to be a world leader in patient-focused therapeutic solutions. Sanofi develops, manufactures, and distributes healthcare products and pharmaceuticals for diabetes solutions, human vaccines, rare diseases, emerging markets, and consumer healthcare.
Within the United States, Sanofi has three affiliate corporations, including Chattem for consumer healthcare; Sanofi Genzyme, which focuses on rare diseases; and Sanofi Pasteur, which handles vaccines. Chattem is responsible for products like ACT plaque guard, fluoride rinse, and mouthwash; Gold Bond powders, lotions, moisturizers, and skincare products; Icy Hot for topical and over-the-counter (OTC) pain relief; the OTC nasal allergy spray Nasacort; the OTC allergy medication Allegra (fexofenadine); and Rolaids for acid indigestion and heartburn.
Sanofi Genzyme manufactures 15 plus innovative products for rare diseases within the US, while Sanofi Pasteur develops and distributes vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus, influenza, rabies, polio, and yellow fever among others. Sanofi is a healthcare and pharmaceutical company with global reach, manufacturing dozens of products to better the lives of people around the globe.
Roots of Sanofi-Aventis
With a worldwide presence, Sanofi has a come a long way through the years to become the healthcare giant that they are today. Sanofi leads the market in vaccines with Sanofi Pasteur MSD, and has a strong and well-established presence in fields and markets that are growing and emerging. In addition, they manufacture major biological products, animal and consumer health products, and generics.
Sanofi-Aventis is a collaboration of many industry leaders that have merged or been acquired to facilitate growth over the years. A general timeline of how Sanofi-Aventis came to be the world leader they are today follows:
- 1928: Rhone-Poulenc was formed, producing medicines, chemicals, and textiles.
- 1949: Maalox (magnesium hydroxide and aluminum oxide) for digestive health is introduced, which became the leading consumer healthcare brand for Sanofi.
- 1970: The French Synthelabo was formed after mergers between the Laboratories Dausse, which was founded in 1834, and the Laboratories Robert & Carriere, which was initially founded in 1899.
- 1973: A French oil company, Elf Aquitaine, acquired Labez, a pharmaceutical group, to found Sanofi.
- 1986: Sanofi wins the Prix Galien (a French award that promotes significant advances in the field of pharmaceuticals and/or innovations in science) for the anti-coagulant drug heparin.
- 1987: Sanofi again wins the prestigious Prix Galien again for its anti-platelet agent Ticlid (ticlopidine).
- 1992: The sedative-hypnotic non-benzodiazepine sleep aid Ambien (zolpidem) is introduced in the United States.
- 1990-1997: Rhone-Poulenc acquired US company Rorer, the British company Fisons, and the Canadian vaccine laboratory Pasteur Merieux Connaught, which can trace its roots directly back to the father of modern microbiology, public health, and immunology, Louis Pasteur (1822-1895), as published by Conntact.
- 1997: In collaboration with Bristol Myers Squibb, Sanofi co-develops and markets the cardiovascular disease products Plavix (clopidogrel), Aprovel (irbesartan), and Avapro (irbesartan).
- 1997: The allergy drug Allegra (fexofenadine) is introduced, and in 2011, the drug becomes available without a prescription in the United States.
- 1999: Rhone-Poulenc and Hoechst Marion Russell merge to form Aventis, which now has global reach and became one of the first companies to invest in new technologies for immunology, genomics, and gene therapy.
- 1999: Sanofi and Synthelabo merge to form Sanofi-Synthelabo.
- 2004: The colorectal cancer treatment Eloxatin (oxaliplatin), which was created by Debiopharm Group who signed an agreement with Sanofi-Synthelabo in 1994, wins the Prix Galien and becomes the third most lucrative product for Sanofi-Synthelabo, which markets the drug in the United States.
- 2004: Sanofi-Synthelabo acquires Aventis to form Sanofi-Aventis.
- 2011: Sanofi-Aventis shareholders agree to a name change to Sanofi.
Several whistleblower-type lawsuits concerning anti-trust behaviors have been filed against Sanofi over the years; however, most were dismissed and deemed unfounded. However, Sanofi was found by the U.S. Senate Finance Committee to have used tactics to delay generic formations of the anti-coagulant drug Lovenox (enoxaparin) from entering the market as competition, paying off medical groups and researchers, the journal Pharmaceutical Manufacturing publishes.
No large company is without their share of legal troubles and accusations. Through the accumulation of many healthcare magnates in the field, Sanofi remains on the cusp of new innovation in the fields of diabetes, vaccines, oncology, immunology, cardiovascular disease, and more.
Ambien: Pros and Cons
Hailed as a safer, and potentially more effective sleep aid than previously marketed benzodiazepine drugs like Xanax (alprazolam) and Valium (diazepam), the nonbenzodiazepine (or “z-drug”) sedative-hypnotic drug zolpidem was introduced into the US as Ambien by Sanofi in 1992. Insomnia medications are big business, as about one out of every three people is believed to suffer from at least a mild version of the sleep disorder, the Sleep Health Foundation reports. Ambien was marketed aggressively and extensively, quickly becoming a household name.
Ambien has a different chemical structure and method of action than a traditional benzodiazepine; however, it does act on levels of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in the brain. GABA controls relaxation, stress, and anxiety levels. Zolpidem starts working pretty quickly, and the sedative and hypnotic effects generally last 4-5 hours, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) publishes. This is much shorter than most benzodiazepines. Ambien CR (controlled release) slowly doles out zolpidem over a longer period of time in a controlled fashion to induce a full night of sleep.
Initial reports claimed that z-drugs had less abuse and dependence potential than benzodiazepines; however, they are classified as Schedule IV controlled drugs by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). In 2014, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSUDH) reported that around 330,000 Americans were currently misusing sedative drugs. Information published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology (BJCP) states that zolpidem may have more of an abuse potential than previously believed and that it can lead to drug dependence.
When abused, these drugs may stimulate higher levels of neurotransmitters that are responsible for feelings of pleasure, such as dopamine, as well as produce a mellow “high.” When Ambien is taken for a length of time, a person can become dependent on the drug and suffer from difficult physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms when the medication wears off. In 2004, the Journal of Medical Toxicology reports that drugs containing zolpidem labels were changed in order to reflect new warnings to their abuse and dependence potential.
In 2007, the FDA requested that Ambien (and all other sedative-hypnotic sleep aids) change their labeling again to add warnings about the risk for engaging in complex behaviors while under the influence of the medications and while still asleep; therefore, users were not aware of performing these behaviors. Several reports cite instances of walking, driving, eating, talking on the phone, or even having sexual relations while still asleep and under the influence of a sleep medication. In 2013, the FDA issued more warnings about Ambien, Ambien CR, and other insomnia drugs containing zolpidem, this time warning that they can cause impairment even the day after taking them, making activities like driving potentially hazardous. The FDA then required that dosages for Ambien and other zolpidem and insomnia treatment drugs be lowered to counteract these negative next-day impairments.
Ambien is still a blockbuster drug for Sanofi; however, medical professionals are trained to prescribe it with caution and only for a short period of time.