The drugs giant AstraZeneca has announced that its trials of a new blood thinning pill produced a 16 per cent drop in heart attack and stoke deaths among patients.

The group said the drug, Brilinta, worked better than Plavix, which is the world's second biggest selling drug, without increasing the risk of bleeding, a common side-effect of medication that reduces heart attacks by preventing blood clots.

AstraZeneca now plans to apply for regulatory approval for Brilinta in the US and Europe during the final quarter of the year, with a view to making it available as soon as possible, possibly by the end of 2010. The trial involved 18,624 patients, half were given Brilinta after suffering a heart attack or stroke, and half were given Plavix.

The study found there were 14 fewer deaths per 1,000 patients among those who were given Brilinta. The positive results of the trial should help the drug win a slice of the Plavix market, which is worth around £5.5bn a year.