AstraZeneca's Brilinta wins in diabetic artery disease patients

AstraZeneca's Brilinta struggled in a past phase 3 artery disease trial. (AstraZeneca)

AstraZeneca’s Brilinta has a checkered history when it comes to racking up data in new patient pools. But the drug has emerged victorious from its latest test.

On Monday, the British drugmaker said the drug, in tandem with aspirin, had slashed the combined risk of heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular death in patients with Type 2 diabetes with coronary artery disease (CAD) who hadn’t suffered prior heart attack or stroke. The combination topped aspirin alone in the 19,000-plus patient trial, a phase 3 study dubbed Themis.

For now, the company is staying mum on the details, which it’ll roll out at a future medical meeting. But the “results could help us refine our understanding of the role of dual antiplatelet therapy in patients across the atherothrombotic spectrum,” study cochair Deepak Bhatt, M.D., M.P.H., said in a statement.

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Brilinta hasn’t always performed well in artery disease. Back in 2016, it flopped a study for peripheral artery disease (PAD) that could have significantly expanded its market. And that wasn’t the drug’s only trial misfire that year; it also failed to show it could prevent new strokes, heart attack or death in patients who had already suffered a first stroke.

Since then, though, the product has rebounded, showing last March that it could match clopidogrel—or Sanofi’s Plavix, and its generics—in terms of safety when used to treat some high-risk heart attack patients.

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Meanwhile, Brilinta isn’t the only blood thinner that’s scored lately as part of an aspirin duo in CAD patients. Last October, the FDA greenlighted Johnson & Johnson’s Xarelto and aspirin in CAD and PAD patients, an indication analysts predicted could bring in $1.5 billion in the U.S.