New drug promises to reduce heart failure deaths by 20 per cent

In Singapore, close to 1 in 3 deaths is due to heart disease or stroke.

So news of a drug which can reduce deaths from heart failure is certain to hog the headlines.

According to a new study,  LCZ696 from Swiss pharma giant Novartis reduced deaths from chronic heart failure by 20 pe rcent compared with an existing treatment.

LCZ696 has been labelled a potential "blockbuster" with sales in the billions of dollars, say analysts. Cardiovascular failure, in which the heart does not pump blood effectively, kills at least 26 million people a year worldwide.

Novartis unveiled the highly anticipated results on Saturday at a meeting of the European Society of Cardiology in Barcelona, Spain and simultaneously in an article in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study – conducted with more than 8,400 patients in 47 countries over 27 months – compared the safety and effectiveness of the drug on patients with heart failure to the current gold standard, Enalapril.

At the end of the observation period, 21.8 per cent of participants taking LCZ696 died from heart failure, a fifth lower than the 26.5 percent who died taking Enalapril.

Novartis plans to request authorisation to bring the medication to market from the US drug regulator by the end of the year, and from the European Union equivalent in early 2015.

Clinically important

Novartis said in a statement that the results were "highly significant and clinically important" as it reduced hospitalisations by 21 per cent, the study showed.

Despite existing treatments, the mortality rate from heart failure remains high, with around 50 per cent of patients dying within five years of diagnosis, Novartis said.

The condition leads to shortness of breath, fatigue, and fluid retention in the arms and legs.

Novartis announced last March it was ending its clinical trial early because the results showed a marked improvement over Enalapril.

But the new drug, LCZ696, is likely to be expensive, analyst Tim Anderson of Sanford C. Bernstein told the New York Times.

Anderson said the drug may cost as much as US$7 (S$8.74) a day – or $2,500 (S$3121.78)  a year – nearly double the $4 a day price tag on other options, which are available as generics.

The study found an increased risk of low blood pressure with LCZ696, but fewer instances of kidney problems than with the group taking Enalapril.

Source: AFP