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Bristol Myers, Sanofi liability in Hawaii Plavix case grows to $916 million

FILE PHOTO: Bottles of Plavix are displayed on the shelves at a pharmacy in North Aurora, Illinois.

By Brendan Pierson

(Reuters) - A judge in Hawaii on Tuesday ordered Bristol Myers Squibb and Sanofi to pay more than $916 million to the state for failing to warn non-white patients of health risks from its blood thinner Plavix, up from an earlier judgment of $834 million.

The ruling from Judge James Ashford, of Hawaii's First Circuit Court, follows a non-jury trial held last fall. It was the second trial in the case, after the state's Supreme Court found that the judge in the first trial that resulted in the $834 million award had made a legal error.

"Once actually received by the state general fund, I anticipate that this award will provide greater healthcare services to the people of Hawaii," Governor Josh Green, a Democrat, said in a statement.

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France-based Sanofi and U.S. drugmaker Bristol Myers said in a joint statement that they disagreed with the decision and would appeal. "The overwhelming body of scientific evidence demonstrates that Plavix is a safe and effective therapy, regardless of a patient’s race or genetics," they said.

Hawaii alleged the companies violated state consumer protection laws by marketing Plavix without disclosing that the drug could have a diminished or no effect for some people, particularly of East Asian and Pacific Island ancestry.

Plavix, known generically as clopidogrel, is prescribed to prevent blood clots that can lead to strokes and heart attacks. The blood thinner needs to be activated by the body's own enzymes, which can vary genetically.

Studies have shown that about 14% of Chinese patients are unable to metabolize the drug properly, compared with 4% of Black and 2% of white patients.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2010 issued a Plavix warning label to reflect that information.

Bristol Myers and Sanofi faced a similar lawsuit from New Mexico, which settled in 2022.

(This story has been corrected to say New Mexico's lawsuit was settled in 2022, and is no longer pending, in paragraph 9)

(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York, Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Bill Berkrot)