Pfizer, Bristol-Myers’ Eliquis Recommended by U.K. Cost Agency

Pfizer Inc. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s blood-thinner apixaban won the recommendation of the U.K.’s health-cost agency, just six months after the drug was approved to prevent clots after surgery.

The pill, also known by the brand name Eliquis, received an expedited review for patients undergoing joint replacements, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence said in a statement today. The agency, known as NICE, advises the state-run National Health Service on which treatments represent value for money.

Almost 120,000 hip and knee replacements took place in England and in Wales, and those procedures have a high risk of venous thromboembolism, or blood-clot formations in deep veins, NICE said. If the agency’s final draft guidelines remain unchanged, apixaban would join Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH’s Pradaxa, Bayer AG and Johnson & Johnson’s Xarelto and the generic medicines heparin and fondaparinux as treatment options for these patients.

“The committee was satisfied that apixaban is a clinically and cost-effective option for preventing blood clots,” Carole Longson, director of NICE’s Health Technology Evaluation Centre, said in the statement.

Apixaban is also in development to prevent stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation, or erratic heartbeat, the biggest part of the market for apixaban. The medicine may reach annual sales of $2 billion by 2015, according to the average estimate of three analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

Trailing Rivals

Pfizer and Bristol-Myers trail two competitors in the race to replace warfarin and aspirin as the standard treatments to prevent blood clots in patients with atrial fibrillation.

Pradaxa was the first, approved last year in the U.S. Xarelto was recommended for atrial fibrillation patients by an advisory panel of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in September.

Analysts predict apixaban may take the lead after a study presented in August found that the pill reduced deaths and bleeding rates more than warfarin, a modified form of rat poison used to prevent clots for more than five decades.