New Stroke Drugs Look Set to Replace Blood Thinner Warfarin


BARCELONA, Aug 30 (Reuters) - Patients at risk of stroke due to an irregular heartbeat should soon have a viable alternative to 50-year-old warfarin, after a new pill from Boehringer Ingelheim beat expectations in a major clinical study.

The strong showing for the unlisted German company's drug Pradaxa impressed experts attending the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) and promises to change clinical practice in the management of atrial fibrillation (AF).

It also sets a high bar for Bayer (BAYG.DE) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N), whose rival drug and big blockbuster hope Xarelto is about a year behind in development.

A pivotal trial involving more than 18,000 patients found a 150 milligram dose of Pradaxa, or dabigatran, given twice daily reduced the risk of stroke and systemic embolism by 34 percent compared to warfarin.

There was no increase in the risk of major bleeding, a common problem with anticoagulants, and there were no signs of liver damage, an issue that sank AstraZeneca's (AZN.L) warfarin replacement candidate Exanta five years ago.

A lower 110 mg showed similar efficacy to warfarin and carried a lower bleeding risk.

"These results are very good," said Fausto Pinto, director of the Lisbon Cardiovascular Institute and programme chairman of the ESC, who was not involved in the trial. "It's a very good alternative to warfarin and will probably replace warfarin."

Industry analysts believe oral anticoagulants that can be used instead of warfarin represent a multibillion opportunity for drugmakers, with some predicting the market could eventually be worth more than $10 billion a year.

Other oral anticoagulants in development include Pfizer (PFE.N) and Bristol's apixaban and Merck's (MRK.N) betrixaban, both of which are further behind Pradaxa and Xarelto in testing.

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