A drug developed by AstraZeneca has significantly reduced the likelihood of hospitalization of diabetic patients with heart failure, a type 2 diabetes-related condition.

The results of a large clinical trial represent a significant boost for the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical manufacturer, which aims to achieve ambitious sales targets.

Cardiovascular complications are common in people with type 2 diabetes, which has become a major burden on healthcare systems worldwide.

In a clinical trial involving more than 17,000 diabetes patients in 33 countries, Farxiga reduced the risk of hospitalization for heart failure or cardiovascular death by 17 percent compared to placebo.

The study included an unusually broad range of patients: not only diabetics who had suffered a heart attack or stroke, but also those who had risk factors that made them susceptible to cardiovascular problems but had not yet experienced them. The results were consistent in both groups, Astra said.

Elisabeth Björk, director of the company's cardiovascular, renal and metabolic processes, said the results were "clinically relevant to the 425 million people who have diabetes worldwide". People with the type 2 version of the disease had "two to five times more heart failure along with an increased risk of heart attack or stroke," she added.

The survival rate of heart failure was only 50 percent five years after diagnosis. "That's why these new insights are so important to broaden our understanding of how we can go beyond blood sugar so we can better address these serious and often overlooked cardiovascular complications."

In another potentially significant finding for the company, Farxiga reduced the rate of new or worsening nephropathy – or kidney damage – by 24 percent compared to placebo across the entire patient population.

Those who took Farxiga had fewer deaths for some reason compared to the placebo group.

Astra, which announced its first quarter of product sales growth since 2014 on Thursday, relies on new medicines, including Farxiga, to achieve sustainable growth for the company. Pascal Soriot, Chief Executive, has set his sights on increasing revenue to $ 45 billion a year by 2023.

Farxiga's current year revenue was $ 994 million, up 32 percent in constant currencies compared to the same period last year. Much of this growth was driven by sales in emerging markets, which rose 57 percent to $ 242 million.

The company expects to apply for Farxiga's approval for the treatment of type 1 diabetes in the US by the end of the year. Further regulatory decisions are expected in 2019 in Japan and Europe.

It is also conducting additional studies to determine if Farxiga could be an effective treatment for chronic kidney disease and heart failure, possibly opening up a much larger market for the drug.

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