GlaxoSmithKline's pulmonary disease drug ineffective in increasing survival rate

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Sep 10, 2015 07:01 AM EDT

Results of a recent massive study conducted by GlaxoSmithKline failed to help the company boost its sales in their most lucrative but declining category of medicine, ABC News reports. The study, called SUMMIT, was a partnership between GSK and Theravance Inc. of South San Francisco, California. It aimed to prove that the Breo Ellipta can reduce the risk of dying and the rate of lung function decline.

Breo Ellipta is an inhaled medicine that is taken once a day, and was approved in May 2013 for treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), one of the global leading causes of death, according to FOX News. The disease is also commonly known as smoker's cough.

Reuters reports that the study results show a lowered risk of dying by Breo by 12.2 percent, compared to placebo. It also showed a reduced rate of decline in lung function and heart problems. There was a 7.4 percent reduction in the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular problems.

However, researchers did not believe this was statistically significant enough. FOX News reports that if the drug showed better results, it would have been the first to show a survival benefit among patients with COPD.

Breo combines a steroid and a long-acting bet agonist (LABA) to help patients breathe better. GSK's Breo and Advair, both inhalable drugs, are also widely used to treat asthma.

According to ABC News, Sanford Bernstein analyst Tim Anderson delivered the bad news in a research note, writing to investors, "Unfortunately, SUMMIT did not deliver the goods. Even if results had been positive, it was never clear how impactful they would be because physicians largely view Breo and Advair as interchangeable, and Advair is very well-entrenched."

GlaxoSmithKline is fighting to increase revenue from its respiratory drug portfolio, which includes Advair, which sales has also decliend in the recent years.

In May, GSK faced a threat when generic Advair was set to be introduced in the U.S., and was already being distributed in Europe, Bloomberg reports. At the time, Breo and another drug, Anoro, was set to compensate for Advair's lost revenue.

According to GlaxoSmithKline CEO Andrew Witty, "With only the COPD indication, Breo could only address 50 percent of the Advair marketplace. Now, with the asthma indication, we can go after all of it."

Just last month, the Telegraph reported that Swiss drug manufacturer Novartis bought the rights to the medication for multiple sclerosis from GlaxoSmithKline for $1 billion. This was in line of both companies' goals to focus on their strengths.

According to David Redfern, chief strategy officer at GSK, "We continue to focus on progressing our pipeline in core therapy areas including HIV, oncology, vaccines, cardiovascular, immuno-inflammation and respiratory diseases."

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