Glaxo’s Advair sees sales slip as competitors reach market

Leading respiratory drug faces challenges from after losing patent protection


GlaxoSmithKline’s best-selling drug Advair is losing its share of the US respiratory market to competing products from AstraZeneca and Merck as well as to the company’s new treatment, Breo.

Advair’s prescription market share has fallen to 61.6 per cent for the week ended January 24th, compared with 67.2 per cent for the week ended October 25th, according to the most recent data compiled by Bloomberg and Symphony Health Solutions.

Growing demand for AstraZeneca’s Symbicort, which has a market share of 30 per cent, and Merck’s Dulera, with an 8.4 per cent share, have eaten into Advair sales, which were £2.5 billion (€3 billion) in the US in 2012. Prescriptions for Breo have risen since the drug became available at US pharmacies on October 30th, and stand at 1,244, or 0.3 per cent of the market.

“Advair has been losing share to Symbicort, and to a lesser degree to Dulera, driven by the more aggressive pricing and rebating strategy from both Astra and Merck,” said Sam Fazeli, an analyst in London at Bloomberg Industries. “It is still too early to see any meaningful impact from Breo.”

The patent on Advair, which is used to treat smokers’ cough and asthma, expired in the US in 2010. A separate patent on the Diskus device used to administer Advair remains in force through 2016, and that has helped delay generic competition there.

Meanwhile, London-based Glaxo has introduced successor products such as Breo and Anoro.

Express Scripts, the biggest US pharmacy-benefits manager, excluded both Advair and Breo from its list of medicines covered by insurance companies that went into effect in January, in favour of Dulera and Symbicort, which are cheaper options. Patients who buy the excluded drugs pay full retail price.

Breo was also excluded from CVS Caremark’s 2014 formulary, which still includes Advair, according to CVS, the largest provider of prescription drugs in the US.

“Primary-care products in particular will build over time, and we need to be careful not to rush them if we are not going to undermine the longer-term proposition,” Simon Dingemans, Glaxo’s chief financial officer, said. “We are going to be quite patient and careful about how we complete that.”

Advair is also facing pressure from generic competition in Europe. Novartis and Vectura’s AirFluSal, a generic form of Advair, was approved in Germany last month following approval in Denmark.

Advair brought in £5.05 billion in sales globally in 2012, about half of it from the US. Analysts predict it generated £5.18 billion last year.

Glaxo reports full-year earnings tomorrow. – Bloomberg