Witty: No rivals coming for Advair

What if one of your top-selling drugs went off-patent--and nobody stepped up to copy it? It sounds like the pleasant daydream of many a Big Pharma CEO. But it's exactly what GlaxoSmithKline chief Andrew Witty says he expects to happen with his respiratory drug Advair.

"We are working on the basis of substantial Advair business for the foreseeable future," Witty said during the big J.P. Morgan healthcare conference (as quoted by Reuters). "It is very difficult to make a generic."

Advair goes off patent in the U.S. next year. But a generics maker would not only have to get approval for its version of the drug, but would have to come up with a delivery system for it, too. Advair is administered via inhaler and is approved for patients with asthma and COPD. Advair Diskus toted up $4.4 billion in U.S. sales in 2008, so keeping those sales on Glaxo's income statement is a big deal.

Witty dropped a few other tidbits: He expects to launch the new Lupus drug in 2011 with partner Human Genome Sciences. He said it wasn't unreasonable for governments to ask to renegotiate their H1N1 vaccine contracts. And he's still focusing on small, "bolt-on" acquisitions, some of which will spring from this week's conference. Glaxo folks have had some 300 meetings there, he said. "We will do some deals as a consequence," he added.

- read the Reuters story