Medicines Company Sets Itself Apart

Any drugmaker will try to differentiate its lead compound from another drug linked to all sorts of safety issues. And sure enough, The Medicines Company (Nasdaq: MDCO  ) announced new data over the weekend from an old clinical study of its lead drug Angiomax, in an attempt to set it apart from the often-used but recently maligned compound heparin.

Angiomax, used as an anticoagulation therapy in many angioplasty surgeries, won FDA approval in 2000. But the data that Medicines released on Saturday was from another analysis of Angiomax -- as a treatment for heart attack patients following angioplasty. That data also compared the drug's benefits and safety to the use of heparin.

Medicines first reported data from this study, dubbed HORIZONS, last October. In the study, Angiomax strongly succeeded on its two primary endpoints, and patients treated with the drug experienced fewer cardiac-related deaths than did those treated with heparin. The new data reported over the weekend expands on those results. It wasn't earth-shattering information, compared with what we already knew about Angiomax, but it does remind us that the drug competes with a rival whose suppliers are experiencing some problems.

Heparin has made news recently, over contaminated batches of the compound that have made people sick. Some of the Chinese companies that provide supplier Baxter (NYSE: BAX  ) with the raw ingredients for the drug may be linked to the bad batches. Medicines has always tried to differentiate Angiomax from heparin as a treatment, but now it has even more incentive to do so.

When its 2007 year-end earnings results came out in February, Medicines guided for U.S. Angiomax sales to rise at least 22% this year, to a range of $310 million to $320 million. In the third quarter of last year, Medicines estimated that Angiomax was used in approximately 42% of coronary angioplasties, but its angioplasty market share and its 2008 sales may head higher if the heparin supplier problems persist.

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