Good news flowed in at AstraZeneca (AZN) with the American College of Cardiology Foundation (ACCF) and American Heart Association (AHA) panel of experts updating their guidelines and issuing a class 1 recommendation for Brilinta (ticagrelor). The class 1 recommendation was issued for the use of Brilinta in invasively managed patients suffering from ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI).
In July 2012, Brilinta received a class 1 recommendation for invasively and non-invasively managed patients suffering from unstable angina (UA) or non–ST-elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI) in updated ACCF/AHA guidelines.
We note that anti-platelet Brilinta has received the highest recommendation issued by the guidelines committee. We believe that this will encourage physicians to prescribe Brilinta and provide a much needed boost to Brilinta sales.
Brilinta is approved for reducing the rate of heart attack and cardiovascular (CV) events in adult patients with acute coronary syndrome (ACS), including UA, NSTEMI and STEMI.
Brilinta was approved in the US in July 2011. However, Brilinta sales have been lackluster so far. Brilinta sales amounted to $24 million in the third quarter of 2012 compared with $18 million in the second quarter of 2012.
Neutral on AstraZeneca
We are encouraged by the company’s focus on high-potential emerging markets and are pleased with its effort to drive the bottom line through cost-cutting initiatives and share buybacks.
However, we remain concerned about the generic competition faced by the company’s key products. In 2011, the company lost revenues worth almost $2 billion to generic competition. The weak late-stage pipeline coupled with the slow Brilinta uptake also bothers us.
Currently, we have a Neutral stance on AstraZeneca in the long run. The stock carries a Zacks #3 Rank (Hold) in the short run.
Large-cap pharma stocks currently holding a Zacks #2 Rank include companies like Novo-Nordisk (NVO).