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Market report: Astra gets hearts racing in the City with drug breakthrough

Mark Shapland

Heart failure affects 64 million people worldwide and is incurable, but pharma giant AstraZeneca believes it might have stumbled on the best drug yet to help patients manage the condition.

The company turned heads today as it said its established diabetes drug Farxiga had also shown in tests that it can reduce the risk of heart failure.

Astra’s scientists had a hunch that Farxiga might help control the condition as, like diabetes, heart failure is caused by high sugar levels, which then leads to hardening of the arteries.

In the UK heart failure mainly affects the over 65s who normally die within five years. It is a huge cost burden on the NHS and up until now the most common way to treat patients is to subscribe beta blockers, which only slow the heart down and stop the release of stress hormones.

Shore Capital analyst Adam Barker said: “Glucose in high levels is toxic to the organs and nerves. This drug lowers patients’ sugar levels and goes to the major cause of the condition. Beta blockers aren’t working as hard.”

Astra will show the findings to the regulator and wait for approval. Barker has done some number crunching and believes the drug could double its sales revenues to £2.5 billion by 2024 if it comes good. Astra was the top riser this session, with shares up 105p to 7387p.

It was another positive session for blue-chips as the FTSE 100 climbed 26.65 points to 7216.30.

Nevertheless traders urged caution after last week’s rout and safe-haven stocks remained high in demand. Diageo climbed 50p to 3496p and Unilever added 25.4p to 5116p.

But there were some fallers, including British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines, which had a downgrade from analysts at Citigroup. The American bank cut the firm’s price target to 450p from 490p, citing Brexit as a reason for a possible slowdown in passenger numbers in the coming months. Shares in IAG fell 4.8p to 419p.

UAE-based payments firm Finablr posted a 9.1% rise in half-year income. The company floated in May at 175p and its shares gained 1.4p to 164p.

Hipgnosis Songs has splashed the cash again, snapping up the publishing rights for The Chainsmokers.

The electronic dance duo made up of Alex Pall and Andrew Taggart are best known for their breakthrough song #Selfie and are the 14th-most streamed artists globally on Spotify.

The shares were up 0.6p to 105p.