A heart attack drug manufactured by AstraZeneca has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of further cardiovascular (CV) events in people who have survived a heart attack, according to the results of a recent Phase III clinical trial.

Ticagrelor, marketed by AstraZeneca as Brilinta, works by preventing the formation of new blood clots and has been shown to reduce the rate of CV events, such as heart attacks, ischaemic strokes and coronary arterial occlusion in patients with acute coronary syndromes. It has been approved  by the FDA for heart attack patients and those who suffer from severe chest pain since 2011.

In the Phase III PEGASUS-TIMI 54 trial, participants who had a suffered from a heart attack one to three years prior to the study were given the drug and monitored for 33 months. Results showed that treatment with Brilinta 60mg for a year significantly reduced the risk of major adverse cardiac events and coronary death compared with placebo.

The study, which has been published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, demonstrated that when combined with a low dose of aspirin, Brilinta reduced the risk of major adverse cardiac events by 19% and coronary death by 36%.

Trial investigator Dr Marc Bonaca said: “The role of effective anti-platelet therapy in reducing the risk of further coronary events in high-risk patients is already well-established. What this new analysis suggests is that treatment with Brilinta has the potential to deliver greater absolute risk reductions in higher risk populations such as those with MVD [coronary microvascular disease].”

According to the American Heart Association, one in four men and one in three women who survive a heart attack will die within the following year, most often of cardiac arrest or another heart attack. There is therefore a great need for effective secondary prevention medication.

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Elisabeth Bjork, vice-president and head of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases for AstraZeneca’s global medicines development unit, said: “These results show that for patients with multi-vessel disease who have survived a heart attack and remain at risk of suffering a potentially deadly follow-on event, the extended use of Brilinta offers added protection.”

Brilinta is a leader in the U.S. branded oral anti-platelet market, with reported sales worth $839 million in 2016 and reaching blockbuster status in 2017. However, in 2016, studies designed to expand the conditions Brilinta is indicated for failed when they showed it had little benefit for stroke patients or patients with serious circulatory problems in their legs. The positive results from the latest study will bolster the drug’s status as a leader in the ongoing treatment of heart attack survivors, with annual sales expected to reach $2.1 billion by 2021.