Obstacles aside, Boehringer sees class-topping prospects for Ofev, Spiolto

Boehringer Ingelheim needs new revenue streams. Good thing it has launched four new products over the past year--and it's eyeing two of them as potential leaders in their classes.

The respiratory vet is pinning its hopes on a pair of lung drugs--Spiolto, a COPD combo, and Ofev, an idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis treatment--board member Allan Hillgrove told pharmaphorum. But before the therapies reach the top of the charts, BI will have to guide them through reimbursement and get them in front of doctors.

"It's still early days for both launches," Hillgrove told the publication.

Still, he said, "the number of patients being treated with Ofev is already greater than anticipated"--and that's an encouraging sign for a med playing catch-up to a Roche ($RHHBY) rival. The Swiss pharma's Esbriet--which racked up 229 million Swiss francs ($234 million) in the first half of this year--won European approval in 2011 and FDA approval last year, the same day as Ofev. Boehringer's entrant, for its part, only just nabbed an EU green light this January.

But it's the Spiolto situation that could be trickier to navigate. The task will be showing that the combo drug's benefit over Spiriva--one of its component drugs and the current standard of care--is worth the additional cost, pharmaphorum notes.

Dave Singh

Boehringer is already working on that; in August, the German drugmaker trumpeted Spiolto data from a quality-of-life study. The drug provide "consistent, clinically meaningful improvements in quality of life" over placebo, Boehringer said at the time. Those improvements "could make a noticeable difference to the daily activity of COPD patients and enable them to maintain a more independent life," lead investigator Dave Singh said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Spiriva is already feeling the burn from payers as it prepares to go off patent. Sales of the drug--which will lose its IP shield in the U.S. in 2018 and in the EU next year--took an 8.1% tumble last year on increasing competitive pressure in the respiratory market.

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