Glaxo aims to lure patients from Novartis' Xolair with Nucala switching study

GlaxoSmithKline's Nucala competes against Novartis' Xolair, Teva's Cinqair and AstraZeneca's Fasenra. (GlaxoSmithKline)

GlaxoSmithKline is taking direct aim at severe asthma challenger Xolair from Novartis.

Monday at the joint congress of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology and World Allergy Organization, the pharma giant rolled out data showing that switching uncontrolled Xolair patients to GSK’s Nucala improved asthma control.

Among switchers, the rate of exacerbations requiring oral steroids fell by 64% once taking Nucala, and researchers measured improvements in patients’ lung function and quality of life, too.

As many patients do, those enrolled in the study had asthma featuring both eosinophilic and allergic characteristics—making them eligible for treatment with either Nucala, which in 2015 became the first biologic therapy to bear a specific indication for severe eosinophilic asthma, or Xolair.

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“This study is a valuable addition to our understanding of how to manage patients with biologic therapies,” study investigator Ken Champan said in a statement.

Glaxo, though, has more to worry about in terms of competition than just Xolair. While Teva’s Cinqair has been in the mix since March, 2016, the British drugmaker got what analysts view as more serious competition late last year.

The new challenger is AstraZeneca’s Fasenra, which, like Nucala, is administered subcutaneously. Unlike Nucala, it’s dosed just every eight weeks after the initial three doses, making it the longest-lasting therapy of the bunch.

RELATED: GlaxoSmithKline's Nucala, buoyed by its medical organization, ready to 'fiercely compete' with AstraZeneca

Glaxo, though, is counting on its big head start and its respiratory prowess to keep it on top in severe asthma, and some new indications wouldn’t hurt, either. The company is currently evaluating the drug in areas such as nasal polyps, and it’s filed for a COPD indication.