(Corrects sixth paragraph after AstraZeneca corrected its statement on the cost-effective QALY range)
* Study finds Brilinta cost-effective versus generic Plavix
* Astra’s blood thinner tipped as potential blockbuster
* New drug has yet to be approved in the United States
LONDON, May 9 (Reuters) - AstraZeneca (AZN.L) released data on Monday suggesting its new heart drug Brilinta was more cost-effective than a generic form of its main rival Plavix.
The Astra blood-thinning drug was approved in Europe in December and has so far been launched under the brand name Brilique in Britain, Denmark, Germany and Norway, with more European launches expected in the second half of 2011.
While Brilinta has yet to be licensed in the United States, it had been tipped as a potential $1 billion-plus seller for the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker after a pivotal clinical trial called PLATO showed it to be superior to Plavix.
Monday’s data, from a study by researchers in Sweden, found Brilinta, known generically as ticagrelor, offered a cost-effective gain in so-called quality-adjusted life years (QALY) compared to a generic version of Plavix, known as clopidogrel.
Plavix, sold by Sanofi-Aventis (SASY.PA) and Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY.N) and currently the world’s second-biggest selling prescription drug with annual sales of more than $9 billion, was expected to face competition from cheaper generics next year.
Cost per QALY is an important measure used by governments and health reimbursement agencies to assess the cost effectiveness of drugs and treatments. While there is no universal threshold, Astra said a cost per QALY of 25,000-38,000 euros ($33,000-$55,000) was generally considered cost effective.
The Swedish study, to be presented at an International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes meeting on May 23, found patients with acute coronary syndrome treated with ticagrelor and aspirin, compared with generic Plavix plus aspirin for one year, were projected to gain on average an extra 0.13 QALY at a cost of 2,350-5,700 euros per QALY.
For this study, the price of generic Plavix at 17 euro cents per day was compared with a price range of Brilique at 2.25-3.50 euros per day, Astra said.
“What is particularly impressive about this substudy is that even at a higher price, ticagrelor was a cost effective treatment for ACS patients compared to generic clopidogrel,” said Lars Wallentin of the Uppsala Clinical Research Centre and University Hospital in Sweden, who led the study.
Brilinta is a pivotal product for AstraZeneca, which needs to make up for sales of older drugs being lost to generic competition. (Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Dan Lalor) ($1 = 0.6953 euro)