Astra Cuts $3.5 Billion Target for Brilinta After Trial Setback

  • U.K. drugmaker’s 2023 revenue target is now ‘unrealistic’
  • Euclid trial is latest blow to sales ambitions for franchise

AstraZeneca Plc’s ambitions for its heart pill Brilinta have been thwarted after the medicine didn’t beat an older blood-thinner in a key study, the second such failure this year.

The goal of generating $3.5 billion in sales by 2023, set two years ago during a takeover battle with Pfizer Inc., is probably unattainable now, said Ludovic Helfgott, vice president of Brilinta, in an interview Tuesday. AstraZeneca still expects Brilinta sales to grow at their current pace in the near term, fueled by expansion into new markets, Helfgott said.

Chief Executive Officer Pascal Soriot has called Brilinta critical to reaching at least $40 billion in annual revenue by 2023. That sales forecast remains intact, as the Cambridge, England-based company expects a greater contribution from new products to treat cancer and lung diseases, Helfgott said.

“Indeed we have this setback for Brilinta on this new indication,” Helfgott said. “But in the meantime, what we see coming in biologic respiratory, what we see coming from the immune oncology portfolio, is so big that there is no reason to believe that the overall target will change.”

AstraZeneca fell 0.2 percent to 5,032 pence at 10:46 a.m. in London. The shares have gained 9 percent this year.

‘Much Bigger’

Some product portfolios are advancing faster than expected, such as in cancer treatment and respiratory care, Helfgott said. The Tagrisso lung-cancer treatment is likely to be “much bigger than previously expected,” based on trial results and a shift in the competitive landscape, he said.

Tagrisso received the backing of the U.K.’s health cost regulator Tuesday, for use in some patients with an aggressive form of lung cancer, after the drugmaker agreed to offer the pill at a reduced price. It was the first cancer drug to be introduced in the U.K. through a new system which allows the latest therapies to be made available to patients, even as information is collected on how well they work in practice.

Tagrisso may bring in $2.38 billion by 2023, according to the average of analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Analysts predict Brilinta will generate about $1.1 billion that year.

AstraZeneca’s Euclid trial pitted Brilinta against clopidogrel in a trial of almost 14,000 people in 28 countries, the largest test of its kind in patients with peripheral artery disease. The full results of the trial will be presented at the American Heart Association meeting in New Orleans next month, the U.K. drugmaker said in a statement Tuesday.

The pill is also being studied in a separate trial in patients with type 2 diabetes who are at risk for heart attacks. AstraZeneca will present results from that trial, called Themis, in 2018.

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