ESC backs AZ drug over Plavix on mortality benefit

AstraZeneca's ($AZN) new bloodthinner Brilinta--sold as Brilique in Europe--got a thumbs up from the European Society of Cardiology. In revised treatment guidelines, the ESC recommended Brilique over Plavix for patients with acute coronary syndromes at moderate-to-high risk of heart attack or stroke. The recommendation could be a boon for AstraZeneca, which will be competing with generic Plavix when that drug goes off patent next year.

The recommendation applies to patients who've been taking the current standard treatment, Plavix, and supports a switch from the older drug to AZ's newer version. And the new guidelines also recommend Brilique for use after bypass surgery.

The ESC recommendations come as AZ released more analysis of the Plato study, which compared Brilique/Brilinta with Plavix in more than 18,000 patients. The company said trial data showed the drug was associated with fewer deaths in patients who'd had heart-bypass surgery.

"These data may help to further understand the factors that contribute to the ability of [Brilique/Brilinta] to provide superior outcomes over [Plavix] in ACS patients, including when a surgical intervention like [coronary artery bypass graft] is required," said Christoph Varenhorst, researcher at the Uppsala Clinical Research Center.

The ESC said it gave the new recommendations based on a review of the data on Brilique, including results of the Plato study, which supported AZ's application for regulatory approval. It cited one analysis of the study that found treating 54 ACS patients with Brilique instead of Plavix for one year would prevent one atherothrombotic event, and that treating 91 patients with Brilique rather than Plavix would prevent one cardiovascular death, both without an increase in major bleeding.

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