AstraZeneca heart drug fails in key stroke trial

LONDON AstraZeneca said on Wednesday its blood-thinning drug Brilinta failed to help stroke patients as hoped in a major clinical trial, dealing a blow to a product viewed as an important driver of future sales and profits.

The trial found that Brilinta was not significantly better than aspirin, the current standard of care, in preventing recurrent attacks in the 90 days after patients suffer a stroke.

The outcome of the keenly awaited study will disappoint investors who had thought there was a good chance of success, since Sanofi’s now off-patent drug Plavix previously showed limited benefit in stroke and Brilinta is more potent.

In the event, fewer patients taking AstraZeneca’s drug in the trial had a recurrent stroke, suffered a heart attack or died than those on aspirin, but the difference was not statistically significant.

A positive result would have boosted consensus forecasts for Brilinta, which currently stand at an annual $1.87 billion for 2020, according to Thomson Reuters Cortellis. That is short of AstraZeneca’s own projection of $3.5 billion by 2023.

The drugmaker said that preliminary analyses showed the safety data from the so-called SOCRATES trial was consistent with the known safety profile of Brilinta. Full trial results will be presented at a forthcoming stroke congress.

Brilinta is currently approved to reduce the rate of adverse cardiovascular events in patients who have previously suffered a heart attack but AstraZeneca is hoping to expand its use to new areas.

Results from another trial evaluating the medicine in peripheral arterial disease are expected in the second half of 2016.

(Reporting by Ben Hirschler. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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