Novartis heart drug success opens up new care option

A Novartis drug designed to reduce inflammation has shown surprising efficacy in cutting cardiovascular risk for people who had survived a heart attack, potentially changing ideas about treatment and boosting the company’s shares.

Canakinumab, also called ACZ885, met its primary endpoint in a pivotal clinical trial in reducing the danger of further heart attacks or strokes, when used with current standard therapies, the Swiss drugmaker said on Thursday.

It is designed for people with inflammatory atherosclerosis, where inflammation aggravates the risks posed by clogged arteries.

Industry analysts said the positive result was unexpected as anti-inflammatory approaches to reducing heart risks have been largely neglected in favor of cholesterol-lowering strategies.

Baader Helvea analyst Bruno Bulica described the finding as “a ground-breaking discovery likely to transform the therapeutic paradigm”. It also raises market confidence that Novartis will be able to revive top-line growth from 2018.

Because canakinumab works in a completely different way to existing drugs that are given after a heart attack, such as cholesterol-lowering statins or blood-thinners, it could be given on top of standard medicines.

Shares in Novartis rose more than 2 percent in early trading as the company said it planned to initiate discussions with regulatory authorities about winning approval for the medicine in treating heart patients.

Canakinumab, an antibody drug, is already marketed by the company as Ilaris for rare auto-immune disease.

(Reporting by John Miller and Ben Hirschler, editing by Michael Shields and Jason Neely)

Read More at Reuters

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