Yet Another Delay For Boston Scientific’s Watchman Device Reply

Boston Scientific hopes the third time will be the charm. The company disclosed on Tuesday yet another obstacle in the path to approval for its novel Watchman left atrial appendage closure device for the prevention of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation. Although it has already been before two FDA advisory panels, the company said that it had been informed by the FDA that it will need to undergo yet another advisory panel before gaining approval.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

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Hospitalizations For Atrial Fibrillation Are On The Rise Reply

In recent years there has been an explosion of interest in atrial fibrillation (AF), the most common heart rhythm disorder. Although it is sometimes thought to be relatively benign, AF increases the risk of stroke if untreated. Even if treated, it can be the source of significant discomfort and can contribute to additional complications, especially when accompanied by other cardiovascular conditions. Now a new study published in Circulation finds that hospitalizations for AF are on the increase, and this may have important implications for the delivery and economics of health care in the coming years.

Researchers analyzed data  from nearly 4,000,000 hospitalizations in which AF was the primary discharge diagnosis from the years 2000 through 2010. Here are some of their key findings:

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

Exercise: Can There Be Too Much Of A Good Thing? Reply

In recent years researchers have developed a more complicated view of the relationship of health and exercise. Although observational studies have consistently shown that some physical activity is better than none, studies that have drilled deeper into the data suggest that these health benefits may be curtailed in people who exercise very frequently or very intensely. Now two new studies from Europe, published in the journal Heart, offer new support for these observations.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

New Atrial Fibrillation Guideline Supports New Drugs And Devices Reply

A new guideline for atrial fibrillation (AF) was released on Friday by the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology, and the Heart Rhythm Society. Among other features, the 2014 Guideline for the Management of Patients With Atrial Fibrillation incorporates important new information about the new oral anticoagulants and catheter ablation for the treatment of AF symptoms.

Click here to read the entire story on Forbes.

 

Warfarin Benefits Extended To Patients with Chronic Kidney Disease Reply

Anticoagulation is a cornerstone of therapy for atrial fibrillation because it lowers the heightened risk for stroke in this population. People with chronic kidney disease are also at increased risk for stroke, but the benefits of anticoagulation are less clear in this group, and anticoagulation is used less often in AF patients who have CKD. Now, a large observational study offers some reassurance that anticoagulation in AF patients with CKD may be beneficial.

Researchers in Sweden analyzed data from more than 24,000 survivors of acute myocardial infarction who had AF….

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

Artery Zapping Little Better Than Drugs In Atrial Fibrillation Patients Reply

Atrial fibrillation is the most common heart rhythm disorder. Although AF is not as lethal as some other arrhythmias, AF patients are at high risk for stroke and other serious complications. AF is also very difficult to treat. Although drugs are ineffective in a large percentage of patients, drugs are considered first line therapy in current guidelines.

Zapping arteries with electric energy, or radio frequency ablation (RFA) was originally hoped to be a cure for AF. Those earlier hopes have been dashed but some experts have held out hope that RFA therapy would be better than drug therapy as initial treatment.

Now a new trial offers scant support for earlier use of radio frequency ablation to treat atrial fibrillation.

Some 127 patients with paroxysmal AF were randomized to antiarrhythmic therapy or RFA as initial treatment in the RAAFT-2 trial…

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

Problems Persist Despite Gains In Oral Anticoagulant Use Reply

Although significant progress has been made in recent years, a new survey from the European Society of Cardiology finds that there are still too many atrial fibrillation patients who are not taking the best medications to reduce their elevated risk of stroke. Many elderly patients are not receiving oral anticoagulants and overall too many patients are still taking aspirin, despite the fact that it is not recommended for this group of patients.

In a paper published in the American Journal of Medicine, Gregory YH Lip and colleagues analyzed data from more than 3,100 patients surveyed in the Euro Observational Research Programme on Atrial Fibrillation from February 2012 to March 2013.

Click here to read the entire post on Forbes.

 

FDA Panel Gives Support To Novel Stroke Prevention Device From Boston Scientific Reply

The FDA’s Circulatory System Devices Panel yesterday gave a vote of confidence to Boston Scientific’s Watchman left atrial appendage closure device for the prevention of stroke in atrial fibrillation patients. By a large majority the panel agreed that the device was effective, that it was safe, and that the benefits outweighed the risks. In each case the vote was 13-1.

Click here to read the full story on Forbes.

 

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Boston Scientific May Face A Tough FDA Panel Reply

On Wednesday the FDA’s Circulatory System Devices Panel will once again review Boston Scientific’s Watchman left atrial appendage closure device for the prevention of stroke in atrial fibrillation patients (click here for the meeting materials). The panel will be the latest chapter in the long and contentious story of the Watchman. In 2010 the FDA issued a complete response letter and earlier this year a scandal broke out when the American College of Cardiology cancelled a prestigious late-breaking clinical trial presentation of the PREVAIL trial after the company broke an embargo by giving trial results to investors.

Wells Fargo analyst Lawrence Biegelsen predicts that the panel will be “contentious” but that ultimately the device will be approved next year. Although the trial missed one of its three c0-primary endpoints, the FDA reviewers emphasis on “the totality of the data” suggests a more benign FDA perspective, he writes.

One knowledgeable observer, Sanjay Kaul, who has served on several FDA panels, thinks the panel will indeed be contentious….

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

Sanjay Kaul
Sanjay Kaul

 

Large Study Finds Favorable Risk-Benefit Profile For The New Anticoagulants Reply

A very large new meta-analysis finds a favorable risk-benefit for the new oral anticoagulant drugs in the setting of atrial fibrillation. The findings, published online in the Lancet, were remarkably consistent for all four of the new agents which have been fighting to replace warfarin, which was the only oral anticoagulant available for decades until the arrival of the new agents. Although warfarin is inexpensive, it has numerous interactions with other drugs and foods and requires regular monitoring and dose adjustments. The new agents can be taken once or twice a day and do not require dose changes.

Christian Ruff and colleagues combined data from the nearly 72,000 patients randomized in the four large mega-trials: RE-LY, which studied dabigatran (Pradaxa, Boehringer-Ingelheim); ROCKET AF, which studied rivaroxaban (Xarelto, Johnson & Johnson); ARISTOTLE, which studied apixaban (Eliquis, Pfizer and BristolMyers Squibb); and ENGAGE-AF-TIMI 48, which studied edoxaban (Daiichi Sankyo).

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

Can Personalized Medicine And An Adaptive Trial Design Salvage This Hard Luck Drug? Reply

Arca Biopharma today announced that it had received FDA clearance to start a phase 2B/3 trial of its novel beta-blocker, Gencaro (bucindolol) for the prevention of atrial fibrillation in patients with heart failure. The GENETIC-AF trial has all the hallmarks of the modern era: the drug will only be tested in patients with a genetic variation that the company believes may predict a positive response to the drug. And the trial will be one of the first to utilize the much-discussed “adaptive” trial design, starting as a phase 2B study and then possibly expanding to a phase 3 study after an interim analysis of the trial data.

But if GENETIC-AF represents the very model of a modern drug, it also serves as a good example of the pitfalls of drug development. Because this drug has been around for a very long time and has had a very troubled history.

Click here to read the full story on Forbes.

 

Michael Bristow, Arca Biopharma President and CEO

 

New Anticoagulant From Daiichi Sankyo Works Well In AF Patients Reply

Edoxaban, a direct oral factor Xa inhibitor under development by Daiichi Sankyo, is the latest in the series of new oral anticoagulants seeking to take over the troubled role of warfarin in clinical practice. The results of ENGAGE-AF-TIMI 48 were presented at the American Heart Association meeting in Dallas and published simultaneously in the New England Journal of Medicine. The results of the trial were promising, but edoxaban may have a hard time finding its footing as the fourth new oral anticoagulant to enter the market, following dabigatran (Pradaxa), Boehringer Ingelheim; rivaroxaban (Xarelto), Johnson & Johnson; and apixaban (Eliquis), Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

In the trial, more than 21,000 patients with moderate-to-high-risk AF were randomized to one of two regimens of edoxaban or warfarin. Both high-dose and low-dose edoxaban were found to be noninferior to warfarin for the primary endpoint of stroke or systemic embolism. Here are the on-treatment annual rates of stroke or systemic embolism:

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

Too Much, Too Fast? Cross-Country Skiing And Heart Arrhythmias 1

When it comes to exercise it may be true that you can do too much or go too fast. It may seem counterintuitive but a new study finds that among cross-country skiers the risk of having a cardiac arrhythmia was highest in those who raced the fastest or most often.

In a paper published in the European Heart JournalSwedish researchers report on more than 50,000 participants in the Vasaloppetan enormously popular 90 kilometer cross-country skiing event that takes place each year in Sweden. Previous research has shown that Vasaloppet participants are, not surprisingly, healthier than other Swedes across a broad range of measures. The new research, however, shows that those participants who finished with the fastest times or who completed more races were more likely to develop an arrhythmia.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

 

 

 

 

Encouraging 4 Year Results For Watchman Device In AF Patients Reply

Encouraging long-term results from the PROTECT AF trial comparing the Watchman left atrial appendage closure device to warfarin in atrial fibrillation patients were presented yesterday at the Heart Rhythm Society meeting in Denver.

Previously, the main results of the trial, published in the Lancet, demonstrated that the Watchman was noninferior to warfarin, but the total number of events in the trial was small. In addition, there were more safety problems, as might be expected, in the early days after implantation. The FDA required the company to perform a confirmatory trial. That trial, PREVAIL, has been the subject of considerable controversy. Now, long term followup of PROTECT AF may help better understand the risks and benefits of the device.

Vivek Reddy presented 4 year followup results from PROTECT AF. The primary efficacy endpoint– the combined rate of all stroke, cardiovascular or unexplained death and systemic embolism– occurred in  2.3% of the device group versus 3.8% of the warfarin group (RR 0.60, CI 0.41-1.05).

Click here to read the full story on Forbes.

 

 

 

Following An Embargo Break PREVAIL Trial Won’t Be Presented At ACC 2

UPDATED–The already complicated story behind the PREVAIL trial, which was designed to confirm the safety and efficacy of the Watchman left atrial appendage closure device, just got even more complicated. This morning, after the trial’s sponsor, Boston Scientific, prematurely distributed to investors a press release summarizing the results of the trial, the ACC announced that the scheduled presentation of the results at the main opening session of the meeting would not take place.

 

By way of background, last week the trial’s sponsor, Boston Scientific, first announced that the  principal investigator of the trial, David Holmes, would only “present the acute procedural safety results” from the trial. Then the company reversed itself two days later and announced that Holmes would present all three co-primary endpoints.

Holmes intended presentation this morning at the ACC in San Francisco makes clear why there was so much confusion. (The slides from his presentation have been made available to the media.) Although the trial results appear largely positive, the trial missed one of its three primary endpoints, and experts will likely spend a lot of time and energy trying to interpret the results.

Click here to read the full story on Forbes.

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Rivaroxaban Effective In Medically Ill Patients But At High Bleeding Cost Reply

The recent arrival of novel oral anticoagulants has provided important new options for venous thromboembolism (VTE) treatment and prevention. New indications for these drugs have been granted for patients with atrial fibrillation and following orthopedic surgery. But an additional indication, for acutely ill medical patients at risk for VTE, does not appear likely in the near future, as a new trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that one of these novel drugs, though effective at preventing VTE, also resulted in a significant increase in bleeding risk.

In the Multicenter, Randomized, Parallel Group Efficacy and Safety Study for the Prevention of Venous Thromboembolism in Hospitalized Acutely Ill Medical Patients Comparing Rivaroxaban with Enoxaparin (MAGELLAN), first presented at the American College of Cardiology meeting in 2011, more than 8,000 medically ill patients were randomized to subcutaneous enoxaparin for 1o days or oral rivaroxaban for 35 days.

Click here to read the full post in Forbes.

Small Study Suggests Yoga May Benefit AF Patients Reply

A small study published online in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggests that yoga may benefit people who have atrial fibrillation. The study, which the authors describe as “a small, proof-of-concept study,” is the first of its kind. The findings raise the possibility that yoga may reduce AF symptoms and arrhythmia burden. Other physiological and quality of life benefits were also observed. But, the authors caution, large randomized trials will be required to confirm the finding.

 

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

A yoga class.

 

Trials Of Niacin And Atrial Fibrillation Device Will Headline American College Of Cardiology Program Reply

Two big trials will highlight this year’s American College of Cardiology meeting in March in San Francisco. First is the PREVAIL trial testing Boston Scientific‘s long-anticipated Watchman left atrial appendage closure device for stroke prevention in patients with atrial fibrillation. Second is  the detailed presentation of the controversial failed HPS2-THRIVE trial of extended-release niacin and laropiprant.

Read my complete story on Forbes, along with a list of the late-breakers. 

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Two Experts Help Sort Out The New Generation Of Anticoagulants Reply

Don’t miss this very practical discussion about the new generation of anticoagulants and the short term loan costs to cover them over on CardioExchange. Here are a few excerpts.

Christian Thomas Ruff:

I believe the addition of the 3 currently approved novel anticoagulants (dabigatran, rivaroxaban, and apixaban) will eventually translate into a greater proportion of eligible patients being treated; it certainly has in my practice…

Although I think it is important to continue to develop reversal agents for the novel anticoagulants, I don’t think the lack of such an agent is sufficient reason to avoid using a novel anticoagulant.

I think that price is one of the most important factors that has hindered uptake of the novel agents. Although these drugs may well be “cost-effective” in complicated analyses that focused on the costs and benefits to society at large, it is the out of pocket expense for the drugs that really matters to patients…

Andrew E. Epstein:

 It is highly unlikely that a direct comparison of the new anticoagulants will ever be done. Thus, we will have to choose between one or another based on pharmacokinetics, convenience, and perhaps formulary availability. Substudy analyses are also important…

I am concerned that although the elderly often have the most to gain from the new anticoagulants, they are also the patients at greatest risk for bleeding, especially if renal function is labile with drugs cleared by the kidneys. For such patients, warfarin should be considered.

FDA Approves Eliquis (Apixaban) For Stroke Prevention In AF 2

The FDA has finally approved apixaban (Eliquis, Bristol Myers Squibb and Pfizer) to reduce the risk of stroke and systemic embolism in patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation. The action comes after the widely-anticipated drug had been plagued by delays at the FDA but well before the PDUFA deadline of March 17, 2013. Eliquis is the latest member of the new generation of oral anticoagulants, which also includes dabigatran (Pradaxa, Boehringer Ingelheim) and rivaroxaban (Xarelto, Johnson & Johnson).

The FDA said that apixaban should not be taken by patients with prosthetic heart valves or by patients with AF caused by a heart valve problem. (Recently the FDA added a contraindication to the dabigatran label against using the drug in patients with mechanical heart valves.) The FDA said that the most serious risk associated with apixaban, as with other anticoagulants, is bleeding, including life-threatening and fatal bleeding. Patients taking apixaban will receive a patient Medication Guide. The FDA is advising health care professionals to counsel patients about the signs of symptoms of possible bleeding.

The FDA approval was based largely on the results of the highly positive ARISTOTLE trial which found that apixaban was superior to warfarin in AF patients. The FDA will likely allow BMS and Pfizer to claim that apixaban is superior to warfarin, as the press release states that “patients taking Eliquis had fewer strokes than those who took warfarin.”

Click here to download a PDF of the package insert.

Click here to read the FDA press release…

Atrial Fibrillation: Radiofrequency Catheter Ablation And Antiarrhythmic Drug Therapy Compared Reply

A trial comparing radiofrequency catheter ablation (RFA) to antiarrhythmic drug therapy (AAD) as initial therapy for atrial fibrillation (AF) found no difference in the overall burden of AF between the groups. But the trial also turned up evidence supporting the use of RFA as an initial treatment strategy in some patients.

In a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine, European investigators report on 294 patients with paroxysmal AF with no previous use of AADs who were randomized in the MANTRA-PAF (Medical Antiarrhythmic Treatment or Radiofrequency Ablation in Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation) trial. Patients– under 70 years of age and with no other major heart disease– were healthier than the general AF population.

The investigators found no significant differences in the cumulative burden of AF or the burden at  3, 6, 12, or 18 months. However, at 2 years the AF burden was significantly reduced in the RFA group compared with the AAD group (90th percentile of AF burden: 9% for RFA versus 18% for AAD, p=0.007). In addition, the percentage of patients with no AF and no symptomatic AF was higher in the RFA group than in the AAD group (85% vs. 71%, p=0.004; 93% vs. 84%, p=0.01, respectively). In the RFA group, there were three cases of cardiac tamponade in addition to one death after a procedure-related stroke. In the AAD group 36% of the patients received supplementary RFA.

The overall results, write the authors, “support the current guidelines recommending antiarrhythmic drugs as first-line treatment in most patients with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation.” However, the positive findings for RFA, as well as the high number of crossovers from AAD to RFA, suggest that “a substantial minority of patients” treated with AAD “may eventually require ablation for adequate rhythm control.”

In an accompanying editorial, William Stevenson and Christine Albert mention the “substantial procedural risks” associated with RFA and warn that the results should not be extrapolated to different patient populations, since the MANTRA-PAF population was younger and healthier than the general AF population. They express hope that the much larger CABANA (Catheter Ablation versus Anti-arrhythmic Drug Therapy for Atrial Fibrillation) trial will provide more definitive evidence about RFA. RFA, they conclude, is “a reasonable option for patients with symptomatic paroxysmal atrial fibrillation before therapy with an antiarrhythmic drug.”

High Rate Of Warfarin Discontinuation Observed In Study Reply

One of the many potential problems with warfarin-based anticoagulant therapy is the poor rate of adherence and persistence among patients who are prescribed the drug. Now a new observational study published in Archives of Internal Medicine raises the possibility that the problem may be even worse than many may have previously suspected, as discontinuation rates in clinical trials appear to be much lower than in the real world.

Tara Gomes and colleagues analyzed data from more than 125,000 new users of warfarin in Ontario, Canada and found very high rates of discontinuation over time:

  • 8.9% never filled a second prescription
  • 31.8% discontinued warfarin within 1 year
  • 43.2% discontinued warfarin with 2 years
  • 61.3% discontinued warfarin within 5 years

People at higher risk for stroke, as assessed by the CHADS2 score, were more likely to continue taking warfarin over the course of the study.

In an invited commentary, Whitney Maxwell and Charles Bennett write that the results are consistent with previous observational studies but that warfarin discontinuation can be appropriate and is often initiated by the physician. “Appropriateness of anticoagulation discontinuation is perhaps a more important outcome to evaluate rather than absolute discontinuation rates,” they write. An additional plausible explanation for the study finding is that few patients in Canada were treated at anticoagulation clinics.

Maxwell and Bennett write that any potential problem with anticoagulation discontinuation is not limited to warfarin. In the RE-LY trial, they note, more patients discontinued therapy in the dabigatran arm than in the warfarin arm, and a similar trend was observed with rivaroxaban in ROCKET AF.

Merck Returns To Cardiome All Rights To Atrial Fibrillation Drug Vernakalant Reply

Merck and Cardiome announced today that Merck was returning to Cardiome all marketing and development rights for the atrial fibrillation (AF) drug vernakalant. An intravenous formulation of vernakalant is marketed in Europe as Brinavess. It has not been approved in the United States, though it received a positive recommendation from the FDA’s Cardiovascular and Renal Drugs Advisory Committee in 2007.

Earlier this year, as reported here, Merck announced that it was ending its involvement in the development of an oral formulation of vernakalant.

During a conference call, Dr. William Hunter, the interim CEO of Cardiome, expressed confidence that the company would go forward with vernakalant. He pointed out that “what constitutes an opportunity for Cardiome is probably very different than what constitutes one for a global corporation the size of Merck.” In a press release, Hunter stated: “Cardiome looks forward to continued advancement of the launch of BRINAVESS IV worldwide and welcomes the opportunity to continue development of vernakalant oral worldwide and vernakalant IV in North America.”

Click here to read the press release from Merck and Cardiome…

In AF, Women Have A Bigger Risk Of Stroke Than Men Reply

When compared to elderly men with atrial fibrillation, elderly women with AF have a significantly elevated risk for stroke. This increased risk occurs regardless of warfarin use, according to a new study published in JAMA.

Meytal Avgil Tsadok and colleagues reviewed data from Quebec, Canada on more than 80,000 AF patients at least 65 years of age. Much of the increased risk occurred in women over the age of 75.

Overall crude stroke incidence:

  • Women versus men: 2.02 versus 1.61 per 100 person-years, p<0.001

The risk for stroke among women remained elevated after adjustment for baseline risk factors, individual components of the CHADS2 score, and warfarin treatment:

  • Adjusted hazard ratio: 1.14, CI 1.07-1.22, p<0.001

The authors wrote that “women older than 75 years represent the most important target population for stroke prevention in patients with AF, and the effectiveness of novel anticoagulants in this population in real-world practice will need to be closely monitored.”
Click here for the press release from JAMA…

Merck Drops Development of Oral Vernakalant for Atrial Fibrillation Reply

Merck has discontinued its development of oral vernakalant for the long term prevention of atrial fibrillation (AF) recurrence. Cardiome Pharma, Merck’s partner in the drug, said today that the “decision was based on Merck’s assessment of the regulatory environment and projected development timeline.”

Merck and Cardiome will continue their partnership with the intravenous formulation of vernakalant, Brinavess, which is approved in 37 countries outside the US for the rapid conversion of recent onset AF.
Click here to read the press release from Cardiome…