An experimental antibody being developed by Novartis has cut cardiovascular risk in patients who have survived a heart attack in a late-stage study.

The Phase III CANTOS study met the primary endpoint showing that ACZ885 (canakinumab) reduced the risk of heart attack, stroke and cardiovascular death in people with a prior heart attack and inflammatory atherosclerosis.

In 2015 there were an estimated 7.29 million heart attacks globally. People with a prior heart attack live with a higher ongoing risk of having another event or dying, and it has been shown that in 40 percent of patients, this risk is directly related to increased inflammation associated with atherosclerosis.

"Despite current treatment, about 25 percent of heart attack survivors will have another cardiovascular event within five years, making the outcome of the CANTOS study a promising new development for patients," said Vas Narasimhan, global head of drug development and chief medical officer at Novartis.

"ACZ885 is the first and only investigational agent which has shown that selectively targeting inflammation reduces cardiovascular risk. Our priority now is to thoroughly analyse these important data and discuss them with regulatory agencies."

ACZ885 is a selective, high-affinity, fully human monoclonal antibody that inhibits IL-1ß, a key cytokine in the inflammatory pathway known to drive the continued progression of inflammatory atherosclerosis. The drug is already marketed under the brand name Ilaris for a range of rare inflammatory diseases and gout.

Full data from the CANTOS study will be submitted for presentation at a medical congress and for peer reviewed publication later this year, Novartis said.