A new independent study in Japan has demonstrated dramatic benefits of adding Novartis’ Diovan to conventional treatments for stroke and cardiovascular events.

Findings from the independent Jikei Heart Study of nearly 3,100 people aged 20 to 79 with high blood pressure, ischemic heart disease or congestive heart failure, published in The Lancet, show that adding Diovan (valsartan) to conventional therapy produced a “dramatic” 39% reduction in cardiovascular events and a 40% decrease in stroke.

The study, which was funded by the Jikei University School of Medicine in Tokyo with an unrestricted grant from Novartis, (although the latter had no role in study design, data interpretation or writing of the report), compared Diovan when added to a conventional non-angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB) versus the non-ARB therapy alone. In addition to its impact on overall cardiovascular events and stroke, Diovan demonstrated relative reductions of 65% in angina pectoris, 46% in heart failure and 81% in aortic dissection compared to other treatment groups.

According to the investigators, these benefits cannot be explained by a difference in blood pressure alone and there were few adverse events (2.5% overall) with no significant difference in tolerability between the groups. The study has been halted early due to the superior outcomes for Diovan patients.

"The results of this trial carry an important clinical message for physicians across the globe who are trying to protect patients from debilitating complications such as stroke," said Gordon McInnes, Professor of Medicine at the Western Infirmary in Glasgow, Scotland, adding that the Jikei Heart Study “tells us that adding Diovan to usual treatment regimens can offer substantial long-term protection."

Femara reduces risk of distant metastases

Meantime, Novartis also noted that data published in the May issue of Annals of Oncology show that after two years of post-surgical therapy, postmenopausal women with hormone-sensitive early breast cancer treated with the aromatase inhibitor Femara (letrozole) experienced 30% fewer early breast cancer recurrences at sites away from the breast (distant metastases) compared with tamoxifen.

Researchers conducted an analysis of the BIG 1-98 study, which involved more than 7,700 postmenopausal women with the disease, and the findings also showed that the drug also significantly reduced the risk that the cancer would recur locally or spread to the other breast and to the lymph nodes, compared with tamoxifen.