GSK finally has Breo where it wants it--just in time for Advair copies


It’s been a long three years for GlaxoSmithKline’s ($GSK) Breo Ellipta since the FDA first approved it. But now, the company finally has the med where it wants it to be.

The slow-starting med is now to the point where it’s filling the gaps left by the decline of aging megablockbuster Advair, CEO Andrew Witty said recently on the company’s Q1 conference call. Thanks to better access, an asthma indication added last year, and DTC efforts, the COPD newcomer has picked up about 6 points of total prescription share over the past 12 months, and that’s enough to help the company keep a hold on its slice of the overall ICS/LABA pie in the U.S.--even as Advair wanes.

Witty, for one, has been predicting for years now that GSK’s younger respiratory meds would come through, though industry watchers haven’t been so sure. Over the past couple of years, stateside payers have put the squeeze on Advair, forcing Glaxo to offer up huge discounts to stay on formulary--and sending sales crashing in the process. A tepid launch for Breo didn’t help assuage their fears.

These days, though, “we’re into a much more stable environment with good progression,” Witty told investors. The company is increasing its share of new-to-brand prescriptions with Breo, and that means that “as we go forward, all else equal, we should start to see our total prescription share start to move into a more positive dimension.”

It’s a good time for Breo to make that move, too. After years of struggling to turn out a generic of hard-to-copy Advair, knockoffs makers finally appear to be approaching the finish line. Generics giant Mylan ($MYL) and Jordan’s Hikma have both already filed their versions with the FDA, and more companies are expected to jump into the fray.

But Witty isn’t worried. Because of payer pressure, the pharma giant has “already absorbed a big chunk of the genericization effect,” he said on the call. And when adding in the other products in the Ellipta family--Incruse and Anoro, which combined with Breo are currently bringing in nearly a third of the prescription volume of Advair--he sees a “very, very positive picture.”

Of course, that’s not to say the respiratory lineup couldn’t be performing better. Despite Breo’s recent surge, LAMA/LABA combo product Anoro hasn’t shown the same signs of life. Doctors are “taking a long time to change habits” when it comes to prescribing, Witty said. “We remain committed to Anoro, but it’s a harder build.”

- read the call transcript

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