Bayer Schering Pharma’s Xarelto for the treatment of venous thromboembolism has won the 2010 UK Prix Galien Innovative Product Award. The drug, which fought off stiff competition from five other products, including AstraZeneca’s Iressa and Merck Serono’s Erbitux, could herald the disappearance of warfarin clinics in the UK.

Xarelto (rivaroxaban) – described as a significant milestone in a therapy area that has seen few new treatments in the past 50 years – is a simple, one dose formulation that requires no routine coagulation monitoring. It has consistently demonstrated superior efficacy for the prevention of VTE in adult patients undergoing elective hip or knee replacement surgery and is the only available oral anticoagulant proven to be more effective than the current standard of care, says Bayer Schering Pharma’s medical director, Dr Luis Felipe Graterol.

With more than 65,000 patients expected to enrol in trials to evaluate the drug in a broad range of acute and chronic blood clotting conditions, it is also the most studied oral, direct Factor Xa inhibitor in the world.

Commenting on the win, NICE chairman and head of the judging panel, Professor Sir Michael Rawlins, said: “Xarelto has the potential to revolutionise the way thrombotic conditions will be managed in the future. The jury were impressed by the novelty of its pharmacology – by the quality of its clinical development – and by the prospects it holds for the future. The prospect of never again having to fiddle around with warfarin – and the disappearance of warfarin clinics – will be welcomed by physicians, patients, and their families.”

The Prix Galien ceremony also saw Shire Pharmaceuticals’ Firazyr (icatibant) win the Orphan Drug Award for the treatment of hereditary angioedema in adults. Firazyr is the first subcutaneous injection licensed for symptomatic treatment of acute attacks of this life-threatening condition, allowing patients to carry the treatment with them for any trained healthcare professional to administer in the event of an attack. Shire is also evaluating Firazyr in an international study assessing self-administration.

Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, who presented the awards at the House of Lords, told the audience: “The government is determined to secure reform in the NHS that supports the pharmaceutical industry. I don’t think in terms of a drugs bill, but an outcomes bill where innovation is rewarded.” By the same token, he said the knowledge the industry can contribute is instrumental in delivering growth in healthcare and in the UK economy.

Commenting on the orphan drugs field, Lansley said: “It is one of growing importance and a challenge to the pharmaceutical industry", while “for the Secretary of State, the challenge is in financing them”.