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Report On Heart Attacks Seen Unlikely To Greatly Boost Aspirin Makers With AM-Aspirin, Bjt

January 28, 1988

NEW YORK (AP) _ The stocks of major aspirin makers rose briefly Wednesday after a study indicated the drug helps prevent heart attacks, but industry watchers say any profit gains from higher aspirin sales will be minor.

Sales of aspirin and similar analgesics account for a relatively small portion of drug company revenue.

″The sales of the products may increase dramatically over the next couple of years, but the impact on the companies is likely to be very small,″ said Ronald Nordmann, senior drug analyst for PaineWebber Group.

Stocks of several major drug makers rose nearly $1 a share in early trading Wednesday, but by late in the day most had changed little. Bristol-Myers Co. was up 50 cents at $42.87 1/2 ; Johnson & Johnson fell $2.25 to $75.37 1/2 ; Sterling Drug Inc., maker of industry-leading Bayer aspirin, rose 12 1/2 cents to $87.87 1/2 ; and American Home Products was unchanged at $76.12 1/2 per share on the New York Stock Exchange.

The study in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine shows that healthy men who take aspirin every other day can cut their risk of heart attack almost in half. Previous studies had shown benefits only in people who had already had a heart attack.

Aspirin and other analgesics such as ibuprofen, the ingredient in brands such as Advil, and acetaminophen, the ingredient in Tylenol, accounted for about $2 billion in retail sales last year. Aspirin accounted for about 45 percent of the total.

The U.S. drug industry as a whole posted total revenue of about $45.2 billion, according to the Value Line Investment Survey.

Even among the industry leaders, analgesics accounted for a small chunk of revenue. For example, Nordmann estimated that Bayer aspirin accounted for about $150 million, or only about 8.5 percent, of the $1.75 billion in sales posted by Sterling Drug.

Robin Mills, president of Glenbrook Laboratories, the Sterling subsidiary that makes Bayer, said the product has had double-digit sales growth since the Food and Drug Administration approved doctor-supervised aspirin regimens for certain heart attack and angina patients in 1985.

He declined to comment on what the latest report would mean for sales, but said: ″We know that a significant part of the aspirin business is now beginning to go into heart attack prevention.″

The company may not begin using the new study in ads until the FDA approves the results, which is expected to take three to six months.

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