AstraZeneca crows about Brilinta edge in new ACS treatment guidelines

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot

Ever since Pascal Soriot took the reins at AstraZeneca ($AZN), he's been talking up Brilinta as a diamond in the rough. With some work, the clot-fighting drug really could become a blockbuster, the CEO figures. No, really.

Today, Brilinta got a push in the right direction.

New treatment guidelines tagged Brilinta as a preferred drug for patients with certain acute coronary syndromes. According to the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, Brilinta is best at dealing with "non-ST-elevation ACS" patients who need early angioplasty or a coronary stent, among others.

That's a small segment of the enormous ACS population. But Reuters notes that it's the first time the two groups have singled out one blood thinner of this type in any ACS indication. And the recommendation will give Brilinta a small edge over Plavix, the Sanofi ($SNY) and Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) clot fighter that's now available as a generic.

Brilinta was expected to soar to blockbuster levels when it was approved in 2011; in fact, analysts were expecting $2.7 billion in sales by 2015. But that approval came 6 months late, thanks to an FDA request for more data. Partly because of Plavix's entrenched market position, sales disappointed. Last year, Soriot pointed out that Brilinta enjoyed a much larger market share in Europe than it does in the U.S. Room for growth, he argued. And he decided to put big money into advertising, detailing and other resources to help pick up the pace in the States.

AstraZeneca had just begun to see results when the U.S. Justice Department launched an investigation into alleged data tampering in a key Brilinta trial. The company backed off of marketing. That abeyance continued until August of this year, when the Department of Justice said it didn't find any infractions worth pursuing.

That was obviously a relief. AstraZeneca put the marketing push back in gear. And now, it has some more fuel to help acclerate sales while it waits for data from a Brilinta outcomes trial dubbed Pegasus. "This is just another example of the growing momentum behind the brand, particularly in the U.S.," Brilinta VP Tom Keith-Roach told Reuters, "but there is still much to do as we anticipate Pegasus top line results at the end of the year."

- get the new guidelines
- see the Reuters news

Special Reports: Top 10 pharma companies by 2013 revenue - AstraZeneca | Top 10 Drug Launch Disasters - Brilinta