NICE backs longer-term use of key AZ growth med Brilinta

AstraZeneca HQ

AstraZeneca is counting on antiplatelet med Brilinta (ticagrelor) to do big things for its top line. And now, the med is getting a boost from cost watchdogs in England that could help it do just that.

Friday, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) announced in draft guidance that administering the therapy--dubbed Brilique in the U.K.--for a longer period of time to heart attack patients to prevent further heart attacks or stroke is a cost-effective use of NHS resources.

While the cost-effectiveness gatekeepers had already backed a 90-mg dose administered for 12 months after a heart attack, the new guidance would allow patients to receive a lower, 60-mg dose for up to three years. NICE cited the cost of the treatment--about £2 per day--as a key part of its decision.

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“Despite the availability of effective secondary prevention treatments, as many as a quarter of people who have had a heart attack go on to have another heart attack or stroke--often with devastating consequences,” Carole Longson, director of NICE’s Health Technology Evaluation Center, said in a statement. “In provisionally recommending ticagrelor we are pleased to be able to increase the treatment options available to the many thousands of people who stand to benefit from it.”

And that’s just the kind of news that AstraZeneca wants to hear. The company has seen its share price rise recently for a variety of reasons, but was already suffering from generic competition to former best-seller Nexium when it recently fell off another patent cliff with Crestor. It is counting on Brilinta--as well as its diabetes business, new cancer meds and China growth--to help keep its turnaround intact.

Still, though, the company may have a hard time hitting the $45 billion sales mark CEO Pascal Soriot has put up for 2023, which could be where M&A comes in. And AZ has been active on that front; it’s one of a slew of Big Pharma players reportedly eyeing hot oncology target Medivation.

- read NICE's draft guidance (PDF)

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