Will penny-pinching Europeans accept Brilinta premium?

So far, so good: AstraZeneca won European approval for its new blood-thinner Brilinta. It has launched the drug in four markets, with more launches planned soon. But as Reuters reports, the clot-buster could find itself in an uphill battle to persuade cost-conscious governments that it's worth the price.

AZ has set Brilinta's price at €2.48 per day, That's £1.80 in the U.K., or equivalent to about $3.50, and it's higher than the cost of treatment with Plavix, the current treatment standard. It's even more of a premium to generic versions of Plavix, which are available in several European markets.

The rationale? Data from the PLATO trial, which, the company says, shows Brilinta delivered better outcomes than Plavix did. "[U]sing Brilinta resulted in the lower use of healthcare resources," a spokesperson told Reuters. "On the basis of the PLATO data, AstraZeneca believes Brilinta should be priced at a premium to branded Plavix."

The question now is whether governments will accept that argument. As Reuters points out, AZ already withdrew its application for government reimbursement in France, saying it would resubmit in a few months. In Germany, Brilinta faces a new pricing-evaluation scheme designed to save the government money: After company-set pricing for one year, officials will review each drug to determine whether it's better than other treatments; if the answer is no, then it would bear a price similar to those rivals.

And then there's the U.K.'s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, which plans to issue its decision on Brilinta in October. So, obviously, it will take some time before AstraZeneca knows whether the premium-pricing strategy will work.

- read the Reuters analysis