Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb have this morning launched their clot busting drug Eliquis in the UK.

The oral blood thinner won European approval* just last month to prevent stroke and systemic embolism in patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation (NVAF) and one other risk factor, such as a prior stroke, hypertension or diabetes.

According to the firms, Eliquis (apixaban), a factor Xa inhibitor, is the only oral anticoagulant that has shown a superior risk reduction compared to veteran drug warfarin across outcomes for stroke and systemic embolism, major bleeding and all-cause mortality, and analysts believe it could become a best-in-class drug.

Regulatory approval came on the back of a comprehensive package of clinical data from two Phase III trials including around 24,000 patients.

In one of these, called Aristotle, Eliquis came out as superior to warfarin in the primary efficacy endpoint of stroke/systemic embolism, with a 21% relative risk reduction beyond warfarin and, crucially, was linked with a 31% lower risk for major bleeding than the veteran bloodthinner.

In the UK, AF is the most common heart rhythm disorder affecting around 1.3 million a year, and patients with AF have a five times higher risk of having a stroke.

Issues with warfarin

For decades, the standard of care has been warfarin, but there are issues with this drug. "It requires on-going INR monitoring and can have undesirable drug and diet interactions," explained Professor John Camm, Clinical Cardiologist, St George’s Hospital, London.

As Trudie Lobban, founder and chief executive of the Atrial Fibrillation Association, points out: "Having the choice of effective new treatments which do not require INR monitoring provides the option to tailor therapy to the individual patient," and "could also help to reduce the burden on the NHS to monitor INR and the associated impact on patients, their families and carers".

A spokesperson for the company told PharmaTimes UK News that the price of Eliquis is "in line with the other anticoagulants on the market," with 56 5mg pills costing £61.50.

*Eliquis is also cleared in Europe for the prevention of venous thromboembolic events (VTE) in adults who have undergone elective hip or knee replacement surgery