UK drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline’s blood-thinner Arixtra (fondaparinux sodium) can cut patients’ risk of forming venous blood clots by nearly half, according to a study published in the February 11 edition of the British Medical Journal.

The ARTEMIS trial, which included 849 patients in 35 sites across eight countries, was designed to evaluate the overall efficacy and safety of Arixtra in older, medically-ill patients, as the danger of developing venous thromboembolism in this patient subset is particularly high.

“Venous thromboembolism presents a significant risk to this patient population, however we have had limited understanding of the effectiveness of clot prevention to address VTE in this group,” commented Alexander Cohen, Honorary Consultant Vascular Physician at King's College Hospital, London, and Chairman of the Steering Committee of the ARTEMIS study.

And Dr Lawson Macartney, Senior Vice President, Cardiovascular and Metabolic Medicine Development at GSK, remarked: “Results from ARTEMIS show no increased risk of major bleeding in acutely ill patients and support the growing body of evidence demonstrating the efficacy of Arixtra in venous thrombosis."

GSK will be hoping that the data will give sales of Arixtra, which came in at £24 million ($42 million) for 2005, a bit of a kick, after their relatively slow start since the drug's first launch in 2001 in the USA and subequent European introduction the following year. This could help Arixtra gain some ground on its rival, Sanofi-Aventis' Lovenox (enoxaparin), which is currently market leader with sales of 572 million euros ($681 million) in the fourth quarter of 2005.

GSK acquired Arixtra, the first in a new class of antithrombotics known as selective inhibitors of Factor Xa, from Sanofi-Synthelabo in September 2004, as one of the approval conditions of the French firm's takeover of Franco-German rival, Aventis. The agent is marketed in Europe for the prevention of VTE in patients undergoing surgery for hip fracture, knee replacement and hip replacement, as well as in acutely-ill medical patients who are immobilised and those undergoing abdominal surgery who are considered at a high risk of thromboembolic complications.