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PREVIEW-Closely watched heart drugs highlight AHA meeting

By Ransdell Pierson and Debra Sherman NEW YORK, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Data on closely followed experimental medicines that could greatly improve treatment for heart disease and prevent strokes will be unveiled in Chicago beginning on Sunday at the annual scientific sessions of the American Heart Association. Thousands of doctors and researchers will be on hand at the meeting, from Nov 14 to Nov 17, where results of clinical trials for an array of medical devices will also be showcased. Greater details will be presented for how well Bayer AG's Xarelto, or rivaroxaban, prevented strokes among patients with an irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation. Some analysts are counting on the medicine to garner eventual annual sales of $5 billion or more. Preliminary data from the Phase III study were released two weeks ago, showing the oral medication was at least as good as the widely used but problematic drug warfarin at reducing the risk of strokes. Detailed data to be presented at the meeting could show Xarelto, which is being co-developed by Johnson & Johnson , is more effective than warfarin. If so, it could pose a bigger-than-expected commercial threat to similar medicines being developed by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co and Pfizer Inc and other drugmakers. Another highlight of the AHA meeting will be results of a safety study of Merck & Co's anacetrapib, a medicine meant to sharply raise levels of heart-protective "good" HDL cholesterol. It belongs to the promising, but yet unproven, class of medicines called CETP inhibitors deemed to have multibillion-dollar sales potential if it can clear high safety hurdles. Pfizer scrapped its own such medicine, torcetrapib, several years ago due to deaths among patients taking it. The company had expected it to rake in annual sales of more than $10 billion. One of the most anticipated trials involving medical devices is a pivotal study of HeartWare International Inc's HVAC ventricular assist device meant to keep advanced heart failure patients alive while they await heart transplants. Results from the so-called bridge-to-transplant study will be presented on Sunday by its lead researcher, Dr. Keith Aaronson of the University of Michigan. (Reporting by Ransdell Pierson, Bill Berkrot and Debra Sherman; Editing by Derek Caney) Keywords: HEART/AHA (Reuters Messaging: ransdell.pierson.reuters.com@reuters.net; 646-223-6034; ransdell.pierson@reuters.com) COPYRIGHT Copyright Thomson Reuters 2010. All rights reserved.

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