For the first time, GSK's respiratory newcomers offset Advair's decline

GlaxoSmithKline HQ

Glaxo finally reached a milestone it’s been promising for a long time: Sales of its new respiratory launches are now more than making up for declines from aging COPD giant Advair.

In the second quarter, new respiratory meds pulled in £243 million, with ICS/LABA combo med Breo generating £146 million of the haul. Meanwhile, Advair sales--which have taken a beating over the past few years under payer pressure--dropped only £60 million for the period.

It’s good news for the drugmaker, which has faced plenty of criticism from those who doubted Breo and fellow newcomer Anoro could ever reach the blockbuster sales Glaxo had outlined. And a slow start for both meds did little to assuage their fears. Now, though, Breo--helped by improved coverage and an asthma indication it picked up last year--is coming into its own.

Of course, there’s a caveat when it comes to filling Advair’s shoes. The med hasn’t actually faced generic attackers in the U.S. yet, and while copycat drugmakers--including Mylan and the U.K.’s Vectura--are getting in line for approval, it’s unclear when they’ll win an all-clear from regulators.

Witty has stressed time and again, though, that the generic threat may not actually be so big. Because of aggressive payer tactics, GSK has already offered up deep price cuts on its star product, which he says have mimicked the genericization effect.

Knockoffs will definitely arrive after Witty hands over the chief exec reins in March, though, “and I will therefore spend my entire career as CEO of GSK saying the same thing, which is that the genericization of Advair is not going to be normal,” he told investors on the Q2 conference call.

The company isn’t taking any chances, though; it’s continuing to stock its respiratory pipeline with future backups. Last week, it announced it would shell out up to £175 million ($230 million) to get its hands on a Phase I severe asthma candidate from Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen. 

- read the release (PDF)
- see the call transcript

Special Report: The top 15 pharma companies by 2014 revenue - GlaxoSmithKline

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