AstraZeneca said its diabetes pill Farxiga reduced the risk of death and hospitalization in heart failure patients with both mild and severe forms of the condition in two large clinical trials, a finding that could help it compete with a rival pill sold by Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly.
Taken together, the two trials showed that patients taking Farxiga — which was initially approved as a drug to reduce blood sugar in patients with Type 2 diabetes — were 14% less likely to die from cardiovascular causes, 10% less likely to die from any cause, and 29% less likely to be hospitalized because of heart failure complications, when compared to placebo.
In heart failure, Farxiga is approved to treat patients with weaker heart muscles that can’t pump much blood. The Boehringer and Lilly pill, called Jardiance, gained Food and Drug Administration approval earlier this year in heart failure patients with stronger heart muscles, giving it a head start in a patient group that numbers about 3 million in the U.S.
The data came from an analysis of the results of two clinical trials, which AstraZeneca had pre-planned, in order to have enough patients to show a mortality benefit across all patient groups.
The analysis, unveiled Saturday at the European Society of Cardiology and in Nature Medicine, was published the same day as AstraZeneca separately published the trial data in patients with milder disease that was included in the bigger analysis. That trial found the pill reduced the risk of cardiovascular death by 12% when compared to placebo and the composite risk of worsening heart failure or cardiovascular death by 18%.
AstraZeneca now may have enough data to ask the FDA to grant it approval in a wider group of heart failure patients and give it a chance to catch back up with Boehringer and Lilly.
Farxiga had sales of $3 billion in 2021, making it the U.K.-based company’s second-biggest selling product after cancer drug Tagrisso. Lilly reported Jardiance sales of $1.6 billion in 2021 and Boehringer reported its share of sales at 3.9 billion euros ($3.9 billion).
The two pills treat diabetes by increasing the amount of glucose excreted in the urine. Scientists aren’t sure why they are effective in heart failure, although the strong links between diabetes and heart disease have meant that other drugs that lower blood sugar have also shown a cardiovascular benefit.
Farxiga has separately won FDA approval to treat kidney disease.