A clot-busting drug that can reduce the chance of dying from a second heart attack by 20 per cent has been given the all clear by an NHS watchdog.
Clot inhibitor Clopidogrel had been considered the ‘gold standard’ for current treatment regimes.
However research shows that new drug, Ticagrelor, cuts the overall risk of dying from heart disease by 21 per cent, and reduces the risk of suffering a further heart attack within 12 months of the first by 16 per cent.
Doctors estimate that it could prevent 1,500 heart attacks every year if survivors and unstable angina patients take the new pill.
It works by preventing the formation of new blood clots and maintaining blood flow to the heart.
Thanks to the ruling Ticagrelor can now be prescribed on the NHS to thousands of patients.
Taken with aspirin it is suitable for people who have had a heart attack or a condition called unstable angina, according to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).
Doctors expect more than 180,000 people a year to benefit from the treatment – 70,000 with unstable angina and around 113,000 who have suffered a heart attack.
About 136,000 people are admitted to hospital every year in England and Wales following a heart attack or unstable angina.
People who have suffered a heart attack are at greater risk of suffering a second.
The new drug currently costs £54.60 for a pack of 56 tablets – compared to just £3.40 for Clopidogrel.
The European Union cleared the drug for general use in December last year while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not yet concluded its assessment of the clot inhibitor for prescription.
Dr Carole Longson, NICE health technology evaluation centre director, said: ‘Ticagrelor is the latest in an ever-increasing number of important new drugs and interventional techniques that have been shown to reduce deaths in patients with acute coronary syndromes.
‘From the evidence considered, the independent appraisal committee concluded that, compared with Clopidogrel, reductions in heart attack and death from vascular causes were significant – 16 per cent and 21 per cent respectively – for patients randomised to the Ticagrelor group.’
Patients stay on the drug, made by AstraZeneca, for up to a year.
Side-effects can include gastrointestinal, hematoma and bleeding along with nosebleeds and shortness of breath, although there was no difference between ticagrelor and clopidogrel when it came to risk of major bleeding.
Rash and itching was also observed in one per cent of those patients who took the drug.
Kausik Ray, professor of cardiovascular disease prevention at St George’s research centre in London, said: ‘Despite current treatment options, one in seven patients will die within 12 months following a heart attack.
‘Ticagrelor has been demonstrated to reduce a patient’s likelihood of dying from an acute coronary event, or having another heart attack or episode of unstable angina in comparison to the current standard of care, Clopidogrel.
‘The provisional recommendations issued by Nice means that we are one-step closer to ensuring this life-saving medicine is available for the thousands of patients in England and Wales who could benefit from its use.’