A life-saving drug for heart attack patients

The heart

We've helped develop a drug which will reduce the risk of blood clots in heart attack patients and save lives.

Known as ticagrelor, the drug improves on clopidogrel, previously the standard treatment for heart attack patients, by preventing blood clots more effectively. Blood clots are the main cause of heart attacks and most strokes.

Blood clots in heart attack patients can cause blockages in stents - small tubes inserted to widen narrow arteries in heart attack patients - and this can lead to further operations or even death.

Our findings now confirm what we had seen in clinical trials and show how clinical research can really improve the outlook for heart attack victims.

Professor Robert Storey, Department of Cardiovascular Science

Professor Robert Storey from the University's Department of Cardiovascular Science and Honorary Consultant in Cardiology at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals led clinical trials in the UK. Following these trials the city of Sheffield and the surrounding region adopted ticagrelor as the preferred treatment for heart attack patients.

A follow-up study led by doctors from the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals showed that this early adoption of ticagrelor halved the risk of patients needing further heart operations as a result of stent blockage.

Professor Storey said: "Having previously demonstrated benefits of ticagrelor in comparison to clopidogrel in our research and then having used our research findings to change our practice, we have now shown what benefits this can bring to heart attack patients.

"Our findings now confirm what we had seen in clinical trials and show how clinical research can really improve the outlook for heart attack victims.

Professor Storey also led UK participation in a more recent study involving more than 21,000 patients worldwide known as the PEGASUS-TIMI 54 study. This groundbreaking study showed that ticagrelor provides additional benefits when given to patients more than one year after a heart attack.

Currently, the drug is available on the NHS but only for one year following a heart attack. Professor Storey said: "It is available on the NHS but the question is whether the NHS will prescribe the drug for longer."

Ticagrelor was invented by scientists in the UK and developed by AstraZeneca. The drug was approved by the National Institute for Clinical Health and Excellence (NICE) as a cost-effective treatment for heart attack patients in October 2011.

Hospitals and GP practices across South Yorkshire were early adopters of ticagrelor and since February 2012 have prescribed this instead of clopidogrel in the majority of heart attack cases.

But some areas of the UK have opted for clopidogrel, which is cheaper than ticagrelor, in spite of NICE's endorsement that the latter is a cost-effective and successful treatment. This has led to inequity of access to a treatment that has the best evidence for reducing the risk of dying in the year after a heart attack.

Professor Storey added: "Hopefully our new data will help to convince other doctors of the benefits of adopting this new treatment."