The color purple knocks back Novartis' Advair rival in Germany

GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) asthma behemoth Advair may be losing ground in Europe, but a legal win may stop some of the bleeding--at least in Germany. The British pharma giant has obtained a preliminary injunction there to stop Novartis' ($NVS) Sandoz from hawking its generic, AirFluSal Forspiro, thanks to the inhaler's purple color.

According to The Wall Street Journal, a Cologne court granted the injunction based on unfair competition grounds; patients, pharmacists and healthcare providers associate the purple hue with Advair, which could lead to confusion, Glaxo says.

Sandoz, however, disagrees, and says it will fight the injunction "to ensure that patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in Germany have access to this patient-friendly inhaler," it told the WSJ.

For Glaxo, it's a small victory in the battle to stall its $9 billion drug's sales decline. The company relies on Advair for close to one-fifth of its revenue, but the drug has been slipping as of late as competitors--branded and generic--vie for market share. European sales, in particular, dropped 2% to £1.5 billion last year. While Advair's hard-to-copy Diskus inhaler technology has staved off serious copycat threats so far, Credit Suisse analysts predict European sales of the off-patent blockbuster will sink another 10% in 2014, the Journal notes.

With 7 EU nods since its first regulatory green light in mid-December, AirFluSal Forspiro figures to factor in. The drug has already launched in Denmark and Germany, and additional approvals could follow. But luckily for Glaxo, AirFluSal is not directly substitutable for its product; it competes on the market as might branded rivals, like AstraZeneca's ($AZN) Symbicort and Merck's ($MRK) Dulera.

- see the WSJ story (sub. req.)

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