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Novartis heart drug sees stellar results

Published on 01/09/14 at 08:25am
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Novartis’ new heart pill has produced stellar results in helping patients with heart failure live longer, making it the first treatment to do so in decades.

The experimental treatment, known at LCZ696, cut the risk of both cardiovascular death and admissions to hospital by a fifth when compared to the ageing ACE-inhibitor enalapril.

The new clinical trials results were showcased at this year’s European Society of Cardiology in Barcelona over the weekend.

The company itself believes that the drug has potential to replace older medicines that have been central to treating heart failure for a quarter of century.

There has been little progress for over a decade in treating chronic heart failure, in which the heart fails to pump enough blood around the body.

“It will be possibly the most exciting launch the company has ever had,” David Epstein division head of Novartis Pharmaceuticals, told an investor meeting over the weekend.

In a research note analyst Seamus Fernandez says that LCZ696 could see annual sales of $6 - $8 billion. Deutsche Bank analysts however, have predicted the drug could eventually sell as much as $10 billion a year, assuming it works across two broad groups of heart failure patients.

Novartis will hope that this new drug – should it gain approval – can help replace the revenue lost by its blood pressure drug Diovan (valsartan), which is now losing its patents around the world. Diovan was bringing in more than $6 billion at its peak.

LCZ696 is a two-in-one pill, taken twice a day, which combines Diovan’s active ingredient valsartan and another class of drug called a neprilysin inhibitor.

Currently 26 million people across US and Europe live with heart failure, facing high risk of death and poor quality of life. Epstein says the new data for the drug suggests there would be around 90,000 fewer deaths a year in the US and Europe if patients were switched to its medicine.

He says that in addition to reducing deaths and hospital admissions, the drug also made patients feel measurably better, a major factor for many doctors when considering new treatments.

It is predicted that the drug should be launched in 2015 in the US, and analysts at Bernstein say it could be priced at around $7 a day there and $4 in Europe, where drug prices are lower.

They note that there was ‘very little’ in the pipelines of other companies in terms of competing products.

Ben Adams 

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