Astra's Brilinta to be priced at premium to Plavix
* Brilinta wholesaler cost to be $7.24 per day
* Plavix wholesaler cost $6.08 per day
* Generic Plavix expected in U.S. in May 2012
By Bill Berkrot
NEW YORK, July 27 (Reuters) - AstraZeneca (AZN.L) said it will price its recently approved blood thinner Brilinta at a premium to widely used rival Plavix in the United States.
The British drugmaker confirmed on Wednesday a wholesaler acquisition cost for Brilinta of $7.24 per day, about 19 percent higher than Plavix, which is sold by Sanofi (SASY.PA) and Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY.N) Co.
"Brilinta will be priced to reflect the label and its value in treating patients with acute coronary syndrome," said AstraZeneca spokesman Tony Jewell.
"We believe Brilinta should be priced at a premium because if its label and the safety and efficacy versus clopidogrel," Jewell said, using the chemical name for Plavix.
In a huge global clinical study that was the basis for Brilinta's approval, the anti-clotting drug proved safer and more effective than Plavix, although the results among North American patients in the study were less clear cut.
Plavix, the world's second biggest-selling prescription drug with annual sales of about $9 billion, has a wholesaler acquisition cost (WAC) of about $6.08 per day.
Eli Lilly's (LLY.N) Effient, another rival blood clot and stroke preventer that has been slow to gain traction against Plavix, has a WAC of about $5.78 per day, or 5 percent cheaper than Plavix.
"The cost (of Brilinta) to an individual patient will differ depending on that patient's insurance status," Jewell said.
Brilinta, which is already available in Europe and was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week, is expected to start selling in the United States next month.
"This price seems high to us given the competitive dynamics in the antiplatelet category," Sanford Bernstein analyst Tim Anderson said in a research note.
He noted that AstraZeneca has a very short window to get Brilinta established in the United States before it finds itself competing with much cheaper generic versions of Plavix.
The blockbuster drug is set to lose U.S. patent protection in May of 2012.
"Coming out with a premium price seems like it will give payers one more reason to push Plavix ahead of Brilinta," Anderson said. (Reporting by Bill Berkrot; editing by Carol Bishopric)