GSK shifting sales focus for Advair

GlaxoSmithKline is shifting its sales strategy for therapy Advair to stress increasing a treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a new report states. Advair, a long-acting beta2 agonist combined with an inhaled corticosteroid, is GSK’s best-selling drug. About 58% of its 2005 sales came from the asthma market, with 42% coming from COPD, according to the report from Decision Resources and Millennium Research Group. Advair is approved for treating both. Advair sales for COPD grew three times the rate of asthma sales from 2003 to 2005, the report notes. GSK’s David Stout, president, pharmaceuticals, announced the formation of a dedicated COPD sales force in an October presentation to investors. The sales force was created following the submission of data to US and European regulators showing reduced mortality in patients with COPD who were treated with Advair. A focus on the benefits of Advair in COPD by the new sales force will enable existing reps to focus on asthma, possibly boosting asthma-related sales, too. “If nothing else,” the report states, “the increased promotional efforts in support of Advair will help to maintain a significant share of voice for the drug in the face of what are sure to be extensive promotional activities conducted by AstraZeneca in support of the US launch of Symbicort.” Symbicort, also an inhaled corticosteroid and a long-acting bronchodilator combination drug, was approved by the FDA in July for maintenance treatment of asthma and is set to launch in 2007. A number of other lower-priced combination products will compete with Advair in coming years, causing sales to slide by $1 billion by 2010, researchers note. Advair had 2005 US sales of $4.4 billion. Yet GSK will maintain its market-leading position. The product is available as Advair Diskus DPI and in the Advair HFA formulation approved in 2006. The number two and three competitors in the asthma market in 2005, Merck and AstraZeneca respectively, will maintain their positions through 2010, the report states. Sales of Merck’s Singulair—$1.9 billion in the US in 2005—will be flat due to market saturation. And AstraZeneca will stay mired in third place, since added revenue from the US launch of Symbicort will be largely offset by declining sales of Pulmicort due to continued generic erosion in Europe and other factors.

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