Eli Lilly and Daiichi Sankyo have launched their much-touted bloodthinner Efient in its first market, the UK.

The launch comes some seven weeks after the European Commission granted marketing authorisation for Efient (prasugrel) for the prevention of atherothrombotic events in patients with acute coronary syndrome undergoing percutaneous coronary intervention. The approval means that Efient will compete with Sanofi-Aventis/Bristol-Myers Squibb’s blockbuster Plavix (clopidogrel).

Data from a head-to-head study showed that prasugrel produced a 19% reduction in relative risk for the endpoint of cardiovascular death, non-fatal heart attack or non-fatal stroke when compared with Plavix. However, the data also revealed that prasugrel-treated patients experienced a 32% increase in minor and major bleeding.

Lilly and Daiichi Sankyo flagged up the potential benefits to the National Health Service through treatment with prasugrel. Cardiovascular disease “imposes a huge annual burden on the UK economy”, they noted, costing £14.4 billion each year. However this figure “fails to capture production losses”, they said, noting that overall costs including informal care are estimated at £30.7 billion annually.

The launch of Efient, the first antiplatelet to be licensed in the UK for more than a decade, has gone down well with experts. Marcus Flather, consultant cardiologist at Royal Brompton Hospital, London, said that prasugrel “is a welcome breakthrough as it builds on existing treatments by further reducing the risk of heart attacks and death in patients who have had a heart attack and an angioplasty procedure”.

He noted that unstable angina and heart attack are the major cause of death and disability worldwide and the UK “still has one of the highest rates of these conditions in the world”. New drugs like prasugrel, in addition to aspirin, “are vital to decreasing the risk for patients with these life threatening conditions”, he added.

An estimated 2.6 million Britons have had a heart attack or angina, and every six minutes someone dies from a heart attack. More than 90% of the latter are caused by blood clots, though the companies noted that despite current guidelines, heart medications for ACS PCI patients are underused.

The National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence recommends aspirin with Plavix in ACS treatment, though Lilly and Daiichi Sankyo claim that research has shown up to 25% of patients do not respond adequately to clopidogrel.

Pricewise, a spokeswoman for the companies told PharmaTimes World News that Efient 5mg and 10mg packs containing 28 tablets, to be taken once a day with aspirin, will cost £47.56. The equivalent price of treatment with Plavix is £36.35.