GSK's first-quarter sales slide

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GSK's Q1 sales slide

GlaxoSmithKline's first quarter fizzled, missing sales estimates by 3%. Overall sales fell 10% compared to the same period last year, to $9.5 billion.

US pharmaceutical sales slid 15% compared to the same period a year earlier. GSK attributed the gap to wholesaler destocking, and tight competition for asthma medication Advair. Respiratory sales were down 11%, and volume contracted 13% compared to the previous quarter.

Advair sales fell 30% compared to the same period last year. The company noted that “uptake of recently launched [COPD medication] Breo has also been slower than anticipated.” GSK said payers were slow to cover the new drug, but it expects recent negotiations will move uptake forward. The company also announced that it will seek to expand Breo's indication to include asthma, and called out that it has six late-stage respiratory programs.

As noted by the Wall Street Journal, GSK's respiratory unit drives profit, and pressure on this unit will only increase once Novartis owns GSK's oncology business.

The US was the only region where business contracted during the quarter, but the company corruption allegations in China ate into the Emerging Markets business. China sales fell 20% compared to the same period last year, though overall EM sales grew 3% during the quarter.

Consumer sales—which will become part of the GSK-Novartis joint venture—were flat.

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