This Novartis Heart Failure Drug Could Be Groundbreaking If Approved, Though 'LCZ696' Isn't The Catchiest Name In The World

Big news is on the horizon for those suffering from chronic heart failure: Pharmaceutical company Novartis is seeking approval for a potentially groundbreaking new drug named LCZ696 (catchy.) It's a combination of two other hypertensive drugs, valsartan and AHU-377. And on Monday, Novartis announced it had received agreement from the Data Monitoring Committee (DMC) to cease the drug's clinical trials early, having already demonstrated both safety and efficacy.

Heart failure affects over five million Americans and costs the U.S. government about $32 billion annually. These are harrowing numbers which could be sorely helped by medical advancement, and that's what Novartis has in mind — as well as their own bottom line, obviously. They've recently faced a market challenge to their highest-selling drug, Diovan, a blood-pressure controller which is now coming up against competition from a generic version.

The full findings are slated to be presented at an upcoming conference, in advance of the company moving the drug through the necessary international regulatory processes to get it to the market. And, predictably we suppose, they're not short-selling their sales pitch. Said Novartis' Global Head of Development, Tim Wright:

Novartis recognizes the huge global need for treatments that extend and improve the lives of people with heart failure and we believe LCZ696's unique mechanism of action could be transformative. This result is a demonstration of our commitment to developing innovative medicines that have an impact on the most important outcomes like cardiovascular mortality.
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Obviously, the company that's developed this new drug and stands to earn billions of dollars annually off its success has every reason to talk up its efficacy. The research followed over 8,000 patients suffering from chronic heart failure, who were taking a common maintenance drug for the ailment called enalapril. The results as described by primary researcher Dr. Milton Packer of the University of Texas, however, are no less effusive:

The results of PARADIGM-HF are truly impressive. The finding that treatment with LCZ696 was superior to currently recommended doses of enalapril has profound implications for the care of patients with chronic heart failure. We now have compelling evidence that supports LCZ696 as a new cornerstone in the management of chronic heart failure.

Unlike a heart attack, which can strike unexpectedly and prove nearly immediately fatal, heart failure is a condition which progressively worsens over time, caused by the heart's inability to pump blood strongly or sufficiently enough throughout the body. Across Europe and the United States, a whopping 20 million people currently suffer from chronic heart failure.