Uptake of new heart failure drug slow, say makers

6th November 2015

Uptake of a new heart failure drug, predicted to become a blockbuster, has been slow in America, the makers report.

The drug Entresto, approved in America in July but yet to be approved in Europe, has so far netted only $16 million said the makers Novartis last week.

The company says there are a number of causes for its slow take-up, including the fact that cardiologists have been using cheap generic drugs to treat heart failure for years, and will not automatically switch to a new, more costly drug.

And even those doctors already aware of Entresto's benefits were not likely to push reluctant payers to cover it. Unlike doctors in some other specialties, cardiologists are not prepared for the extensive fights that can be required to obtain reimbursement for expensive new drugs, said a spokesman for the company.

Entresto, formerly called LCZ696, contains sacubitril and valsartan. It is currently only available on the NHS under the Early Access to Medicines Scheme (EAMS) for some people seriously affected by the condition.

EAMS aims to give patients with life-threatening or seriously debilitating conditions access to medicines that do not yet have a marketing authorisation when there is a clear unmet medical need.

In America Novartis has yet to secure reimbursement from Medicare but that is expected shortly, and there it will be advertising directly to consumers (patients).

Novartis says it expects to see the drug feature in new heart failure guidelines in Europe and America next year. It will have to wait and see what the guidelines say but it is optimistic, given the results of the drug in trials last year.

A recent report from the American Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, a non-profit making organisation that evaluates medical tests and treatments, found the drug to be clinically effective and cost effective, predicting it could achieve 75% market penetration within five years.