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AstraZeneca's Brilinta Could Benefit From Problems at Rival Merck

From Guardian Web (January 14, 2011)

Some possible good news for AstraZeneca after a number of recent setbacks for its drug pipeline.

The good news involves bad news for a rival since US group Merck has stopped development of Vorapaxar, a potential rival to Astra’s blood thinning drug Brilinta, on the advice of the independent Drug Safety Monitoring Board. Astra had its own disappointment with Brilinta just before Christmas after it failed to win approval from US regulators, who requested more analysis of existing clinical trials, but this new development could help put things back on track. Panmure Gordon analyst Savvas Neophytou said:

Some good news for Brilinta at last. We note today a competitor’s news, which may trigger consensus upgrades to AstraZeneca’s Brilinta forecasts: the possible removal of a new competitor in the cardiovascular market in the form of Vorapaxar, the development of which was stopped yesterday. Vorapaxar had been in phase III trial in some 33,000 patients, and development programmes of this scale very rarely get interrupted without good reason. We believe it is unlikely development of Vorapaxar will re-commence, and that should allow some clear water for Brilinta to launch into a $10bn market. Brilinta has already gained registration in Europe, but registration in the US is pending. Despite a strong endorsement by an independent advisory committee in July 2010, the Food and Drug Administration’s response to delay approval was analysed carefully to enable us to form an opinion on which way things will play out in coming months. To us, if there was any hidden risk (like a safety signal), we would have seen it in July at the advisory committee meeting. Instead, we look for explanations to the agency’s behaviour by examining its motivation. We believe the company has been strongly negotiating on the label and probably pushed it too far, so the agency responded with a request of further analysis.

However with the market falling back sharply today, this prospect has done nothing for Astra’s shares, which are down 22p at £29.73.


Posted: January 2011