AZ's Brilinta beats Plavix in huge head-to-head trial

A late-stage trial involving more than 18,000 patients has delivered new data that demonstrates AstraZeneca's experimental heart drug Brilinta is more effective than the blockbuster Plavix. This is one of the largest head-to-head studies ever undertaken ahead of a regulatory approval and offers a clear indication of the path developers will be more willing to take as they angle for market share among increasingly cost-conscious payers.

AZ said today that the data shows Brilinta (formerly AZD6140) is better than Plavix--a megablockbuster with more than $8 billion in annual revenue--at protecting patients facing a high risk of heart attack and stroke. And the data helped boost the pharma company's shares by more than six percent as investors soaked up the positive indications.

AstraZeneca says it is still on track to seek regulatory approval in the fourth quarter and plans to release full data from the Phase III trial at the European Society of Cardiology annual meeting in August.

"Ahead of presentation of side-effect data and details of the primary endpoint, the full commercial opportunity remains unclear," Morgan Stanley's Paul Mann said in a note. But Brilinta could earn more than $3 billion a year.

- check out the report from Reuters