Heralded Heart Drug not as good as Generics

April 30th, 2010 | Sources: JACC, LA Times

Multaq, an expensive new drug for the treatment of atrial fibrillation, is only half as effective as amiodarone, its generic congener, and it has a similar side-effect profile according to Sanjay Kaul and colleagues at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Heart BreakAs a result Multaq should be reserved for patients in whom amiodarone is ineffective or associated with intolerable side-effects, the scientists concluded in an op-ed piece in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Their conclusion is based on a review of 3 clinical trials (summarized below). It represents a huge setback for Multaq, which was at one time touted to be a potential blockbuster with annual sales in the billions.

Multaq “has only modest efficacy and no clear-cut safety advantage,” Kaul told the LA Times. The drug costs $9 per day, whereas amiodarone costs just a few cents. “Why would you want to use an expensive, ineffective alternative?”

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) affects 2.3 million Americans and causes about 71,000 deaths per year.

Afib is characterized by chaotic electrical and muscular activity in the upper chambers of the heart. The condition can predispose patients to strokes and can cause fatigue, dizziness, loss of consciousness or heart failure.

Amiodarone is highly effective in restoring normal cardiac rhythm in patients with Afib, but it is associated with frequent, potentially serious abnormalities of thyroid and lung function. Multaq was developed by Sanofi-Aventis as an alternative. 

The first trial showed that Multaq doubled the risk of death in patients with moderate- to high-risk for hospitalization and death from Afib.

The second showed that Multaq reduced hospitalizations from Afib, but there was no impact on mortality in lower risk patients.

The third revealed that Multaq was half as effective as amiodarone in preventing hospitalizations and deaths. There was no difference in the incidence of side-effects.


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