GSK's slow-off-the-blocks Anoro gets a leg up from Incruse sidekick

Not every market has been enthusiastic about slow-starting GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) respiratory newcomer Anoro. But the company has been offering doctors another option, too--and it's starting to pay off.

Last week, the company said it had seen a "very significant" jump on combined numbers for Anoro and its newer sibling Incruse--a so-called LAMA drug that's one component of the Anoro LAMA/LABA combo--with its new-to-brand market share hovering just below 30%.

And the power of choice has helped it get there, CEO Andrew Witty told investors on the drugmaker's Q4 conference call. Certain countries, including the U.K., tend "to drive toward a steroid-based combination, then adding a LAMA." And that means that "trying to introduce Anoro into that mix is much more difficult" than bringing in Incruse.

GSK CEO Andrew Witty

On the other hand, markets such as Germany "are much more interested in straight-out bronchodilation," making Anoro a better fit. And in the U.S., "what you see is not so much a simplistic, it's one way or the other, but each physician has a preference, has a habit," Witty said.

The result? "Essentially everybody ends up on the same thing," he pointed out; the difference is "just how they got there." And having Incruse has "just simply made that a much easier choice for everybody, essentially."

It's all part of a respiratory portfolio approach that mirrors the strategies diabetes drugmakers--who offer solo meds and combos that doctors and patients can move among in order to find what works--have been employing for years. That approach can also come in handy with payers looking to strike to strike deals with drugmakers at a multi-drug level, as GSK saw last fall when CVS Health ($CVS) made Incruse and Anoro the only reps from their classes on its Medicare Part D formulary.

And Glaxo's respiratory stable can use that kind of help. The past couple years have seen top-seller Advair come crashing down, with generics in Europe and payer pressure in the U.S. taking huge bites out of sales.

Witty has promised the company's new meds have been helping the company turn a corner--especially with nearly all the Anoro and Incruse business coming over from new patients or patients on rival drugs. "None of that business is coming from … Advair or any of the current products," he said on the call. "We're competing in categories we haven't previously competed in within the respiratory marketplace."

- read the call transcript

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