The US Food and Drug Administration yesterday gave the first ever thumbs up to an angiotensin receptor blocker for used in reducing cardiovascular death amongst high-risk heart attack survivors. Novartis’ Diovan (valsartan) is now set to make its mark on this highly-lucrative market, boosting its profits even further: in the first half of this year alone, Diovan pulled in $1.9 billion dollars for its Swiss parent, climbing 19% over the 2004 period [[14/07/05b]].

The approval was based on data from the 15,000-patient VALIANT study, which found Diovan improved survival and reduced cardiovascular events in high-risk heart attack patients [[11/11/03d]], and follows a similar approval in Europe in May [[09/05/05a]].

The FDA also expanded the drug's heart failure labeling. Diovan can now be prescribed in a broader range of heart failure patients and is no longer limited to those intolerant of ACE inhibitors. Each year, over 1 million Americans suffer a heart attack, which puts them at greater risk of repeat attacks, heart failure or death. Within six years, nearly one-third of heart attack survivors will be disabled with heart failure.