NICE confirms OK for longer-term use of battered AZ growth hope Brilinta


Last month, AstraZeneca’s blood thinner Brilinta suffered a major setback when poor trial data scuttled hopes for a new peripheral artery disease (PAD) indication. Now, though, England’s cost watchdogs are offering up a consolation.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has backed use of the med--called Brilique in the U.K.--for a longer period of time to prevent further heart attacks or stroke in heart attack patients. It’s a final decision, following up on draft guidance from August.

While the cost-effectiveness gatekeepers had already green-lighted a 90-mg dose of Brilinta administered for 12 months post-heart attack, with the new verdict, patients will be able to receive a lower, 60-mg dose for up to three years. And a longer duration of treatment means more sales for AZ, which needs them after its latest Brilinta debacle.

In that episode, Brilinta flopped in AZ’s EUCLID trial, failing to outperform Sanofi and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Plavix at preventing blood-clot complications in PAD patients. And Brilinta chief Ludovic Helfgott lowered expectations accordingly, noting that the drugmaker doesn’t believe a previous goal of $3.5 billion “is attainable.”

It wasn’t Brilinta’s first stumble--or even its first this year. In a stroke-patient study whose results came out in March, the med couldn’t outdo aspirin at preventing new strokes, heart attack or death.

With those fumbles in mind, NICE’s blessing is even more critical to AZ’s growth hopes for the med. But that’s not to say the British drugmaker is giving up on snagging new label expansions: It’s testing Brilinta in diabetic patients with coronary heart disease with no history of heart attack or stroke, for one.