Biotech firm



received a thumbs-up late Friday for its heart failure drug, Natrecor, from a panel of advisers to the

U.S. Food and Drug Administration


Natrecor is given to patients suffering from acute flare-ups of congestive heart failure, a condition afflicting 5 million Americans. About 1 million of these patients require hospitalizations that cost the healthcare system $23 billion annually.

Drugs like Natrecor could help patients suffering from life-threatening heart failure, and also reduce the cost of treatment. Right now, Natrecor stands alone because a rival drug from



suffered a big setback in late-stage testing in April.

The full FDA still must approve the drug, but the agency usually goes along with the recommendations of its advisory panels. If Natrecor does get the green light, it will be the first drug approved for Scios, reversing an FDA rejection of Natrecor two years ago.

Shares in the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company were halted all day Friday at $24.56 per share because of the advisory panel meeting.

Analysts expect peak sales of Natrecor to reach between $200 million and $300 million annually.