Boehringer taps WellPoint's outcomes data to develop new a-fib drugs

Boehringer Ingelheim is working with managed care giant WellPoint in an effort to use real-world data to inform the development of new treatments of atrial fibrillation, keeping up with a sweeping trend in cardiovascular R&D.

Teaming up with HealthCore, WellPoint's outcomes research arm, Boehringer plans to examine a-fib from every direction, looking at disease prevalence, rates of hospital readmission and other data on the disease. The plan is to create a go-to registry of a-fib information that Boehringer can tap as it develops new drugs for the condition, a resource the company said will allow it to better address unmet needs and craft therapies of greater value.

Mark Cziraky

"It's this holistic approach to identifying the needs of all stakeholders that will allow us to produce the kind of information used to develop therapies and interventions that provide the most value to members, providers, insurers and medical product developers and manufacturers," HealthCore Vice President Mark Cziraky said in a statement.

The project is part of a 5-year agreement between Boehringer and WellPoint under which the pair plan to establish similarly deep pools of outcomes data on a group of undisclosed diseases. The companies decided to start with a-fib in light of the exploding popularity of next-generation anticoagulants--including Boehringer's Pradaxa--that promise to chip away at the widespread use of warfarin.

The collaboration comes amid a sea change in the cardiovascular space, as regulators, physicians and payers are increasingly looking to outcomes data in their evaluation of cardiovascular treatments. Many makers of newfangled cardio drugs have succeeded in demonstrating efficacy against surrogated endpoints, like cholesterol reduction, but whether those treatments reach their full market potential will likely depend on results from expansive, expensive trials designed to determine their ability to significantly improve patients' lives.

Such is the case for Sanofi ($SNY), Regeneron ($REGN), Amgen ($AMGN) and Pfizer ($PFE), companies developing drugs that block the expression of PCSK9 to lower bad cholesterol. Each contender is carrying on a longitudinal outcomes study to demonstrate that its drug spells meaningful benefits, hoping to convince payers to shell out for the injectable therapies instead of relying on cheap statins alone.

And, next week, the world will get a peak at long-awaited results from IMPROVE-IT, a nearly decade-long trial looking at whether Merck's ($MRK) Zetia can reduce rates of heart attack, stroke and other calamities. If the study is a success, it will serve as a sign that lowering bad cholesterol can prolong cardiovascular health; if it fails, the sky-high sales projections for new cardio drugs may fade considerably.

- read the statement

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