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Heart disease hope for diabetics?
Abbott drug Tricor could prevent heart disease in diabetics, company says.
November 11, 2005: 4:20 PM EST
By Aaron Smith, CNN/Money staff writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Abbott Laboratories, one of America's largest drugmakers, plans to reveal data showing that use of Tricor in type 2 diabetics could prevent heart disease, the company said.

Abbott (up $0.93 to $43.73, Research) will reveal, at next week's American Heart Association conference in Dallas, tests showing that its drug Tricor, a pill that lowers triglycerides and raises "good" cholesterol, could be used as early prevention for heart attacks, strokes and other problems associated with heart disease in type 2 diabetics, said Abbott spokeswoman Jennifer Smoter. The drug does not involve insulin and does not regulate blood sugar levels.

This market is especially important for Abbott because not only is heart disease America's number one killer, but according to the company, type 2 diabetics are three to four times as likely as non-diabetics to suffer heart attacks and nearly two-thirds of diabetics will die from a heart attack or stroke. The potential patient pool is huge, as more than 90 percent of the 18.2 million American diabetics have type 2, which typically occurs in aging, overweight adults.

Tricor sales totaled $779 million in 2004. The market for heart disease drugs has been estimated at $65 billion and the market for diabetes treatments is at least $12 billion, analysts say.

Le Anne Zhao, analyst for Caris & Co., projected that Tricor sales will grow to $900 million in 2005. Zhao said that Tricor sales would continue to expand 15 to 20 percent annually if Abbott receives approval from the Food and Drug Administration for its specific use as heart disease prevention in type 2 diabetics. Tricor is already FDA approved and diabetics with high triglycerides can be prescribed the drug, according to Abbott. However, FDA approval for that specific heart disease function in diabetics is required for Abbott to advertise its use, said Zhao. Abbott spokeswoman Lorraine Cassidy would not discuss regulatory plans.

One other drug that was given FDA approval for an expanded use is Merck's Zocor. Zhao said that Merck (down $0.01 to $30.02, Research) was able to expand its label for the cholesterol reduction drug Zocor in 2003, when the FDA approved the drug for the prevention of heart attacks and strokes in diabetics, patients with heart disease and others considered to be high risk.

Abbott will also unveil late-stage test data for Levosimendan, an intravenous treatment for heart failure patients that is administered in hospitals, the company said. This drug is marketed as Simdax in 40 countries outside the U.S., but has not yet been submitted for regulatory approval here, the company said. Abbott plans to submit Levosimendan to the FDA but would not say when.

Abbott, based in Abbott Park near Chicago, reported total sales of $19.7 billion in 2004. The company's top selling drug in 2004 was Biaxin, a $1.2 billion antibiotic.

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