That near-monopoly is getting thinned out, though. Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration approved Eli Lilly
Now it looks like AstraZeneca
The bigger problem for Effient and Brilinta is that Plavix's U.S. patent ends in 2012. Even if doctors and patients are convinced that the drugs work a bit better than Plavix, the difference might not be great enough for the new entrants to compete well against a soon-to-come low-price generic competitor. Pfizer's
Brilinta also has to be taken twice a day compared to Plavix's once-a-day formula. The effect that convenience has on drug choice shouldn't be underestimated.
Even with those factors working against it, getting stellar trial results is still a big win for AstraZeneca. The drugmaker doesn't really need to capture all of the blood thinner market; if it takes just an eighth of Plavix's market, it'll still have a blockbuster on its hands.