LONDON, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Britain's national health costs watchdog has recommended Bristol-Myers Squibb and Pfizer's anti-clotting pill Eliquis for preventing strokes in patients with an irregular heartbeat condition called atrial fibrillation (AF)
The draft guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) opens up a potential new market for Eliquis, which belongs to a new class of medicines designed to replace the decades-old blood thinner warfarin.
NICE has previously recommended it for use in Britain's National Health Service (NHS) for preventing blood clots after hip and knee surgery.
AF is the most common form of irregular heart beat. It occurs when the electrical impulses controlling the heart rhythm become disorganised, so that the heart cannot efficiently pump blood around the body.
Around 1.2 million people in the UK suffer from AF and experts estimate that more than 20 percent of the 130,000 strokes each year in England and Wales are due to the condition.
Eliquis competes with other clot preventers such as Xarelto from Johnson & Johnson and Bayer, and Pradaxa from Germany's privately-held Boehringer Ingelheim. Both these drugs have also been approved by NICE to be made available on Britain's taxpayer-funded NHS.
NICE said decisions about whether to start treatment with the Eliquis drug, known generically as apixaban, should be made after an informed discussion about its risks and benefits compared with warfarin, Pradaxa and Xarelto.
The agency's guidance is not yet final and is open to appeal before a final decision is communicated to the NHS.
Pfizer and BMS issued a joint statement welcoming the NICE move, saying it "confirms the value of apixaban as a cost-effective oral anticoagulant".