Lilly's Effient hopes dashed by head-to-head Plavix trial

It's another R&D stumble for Eli Lilly ($LLY). The clotbusting drug Effient, one of its newer products, failed to come through in a head-to-head study against Plavix. The trial, which tested the two drugs in patients with acute coronary syndrome, found no advantage for Effient.

That's significant because Plavix is now an off-patent drug, with generics available on the cheap. Lilly had hoped to give Effient some ammo for fighting back--and a new FDA-approved use in ACS patients whose disease is managed with drugs, rather than stents or other interventions. No such luck.

Lilly had high hopes for Effient when it launched three years ago, but partly because of bleeding risks, the drug stumbled out of the gate, gaining sales only bit by bit. As Reuters notes, the drug delivered sales last year of $302.5 million. Plavix, on the other hand, brought in about 30 times that much: $9.8 billion. But Effient is considered to be the stronger drug, and Lilly has been trying to position it that way, to carve out a solid niche in the face of generic Plavix competition.

"The outcome is a bit surprising because we think usually that more aggressive therapy in the face of acute coronary syndrome would lead to a less adverse outcome--but the data is what the data is," Dr William Zoghbi, president of the American College of Cardiology, told Reuters.

There is one on-patent drug that stands to benefit from these data. As Reuters points out, AstraZeneca's ($AZN) Brilinta did show an edge over Plavix in ACS patients in a study published last year. So now, AZ can tout Brilinta as the only platelet fighter with that advantage.

- read the release from Lilly and Daiichi Sankyo
- see the Reuters news
- get more from Dow Jones

Special Report: Effient - Pharma's Biggest Flops

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