AZ wins Chinese nod for lagging bloodthinner Brilinta

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AstraZeneca ($AZN) nabbed China's approval for its clot-fighter Brilinta, once considered a big fish for the U.K.-based drugmaker. The drug hasn't performed nearly as well as originally hoped, at least so far. Perhaps sales in China, where drug spending is growing faster than in Europe or the U.S., will help jump-start the product.

As Reuters notes, Brilinta has beaten out Plavix, the standard clot-busting therapy, in several studies. FDA even approved a superiority claim for Brilinta's label. But that data hasn't translated into market share. Now, with cheap Plavix generics available, it's an uphill battle.

But in China, Brilinta may have a better chance. Based on extensive interviews with Chinese cardiologists, Decision Resources researchers predict that the AZ drug will top the acute coronary syndrome market by 2015, at least among branded meds. And the ACS market is expect to grow to $448 million by that time.

Plus, AZ's brand new CEO, Pascal Soriot, has thrown down the gauntlet on Brilinta's behalf. Admitting that the Brilinta marketing effort hasn't been up to scratch so far, Soriot figures a renewed push could make Brilinta sales "far better" than they are.

The Brilinta nod came as PhRMA Chairman John Lechleiter made a case in Beijing for faster approvals. In China, approvals take an average of 8 years longer than in other countries, the Eli Lilly ($LLY) CEO told Bloomberg, adding that U.S. drugmakers are aiming to speed that up.

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