COPD spurs drug development

Taken together, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema — affect nearly 50 million Americans, or about 15% of the total U.S. population, according to statistics from such organizations as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And combined, the two diseases cause more than 100,000 deaths per year. Fortunately, however, there is a wide range of treatments available for both, many of which work for both diseases.

According to the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, an industry group for branded drug companies, the number of people living with COPD — which, according to the National Institutes of Health, includes 13 million who have it but don’t know it — has spurred a large amount of drug development around the disease. A PhRMA report released in February found that more than 50 drugs currently are in clinical development for treating COPD, ranging from pharmaceutical drugs to stem-cell therapies that attack the biological mechanisms behind the disease. Decision Resources, a market research firm, predicted that the COPD market will grow from $8 billion in 2010 to $13 billion in 2020 in the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and Japan.

Some new drugs for the condition already have hit the market. In October 2011, the Food and Drug Administration approved Boehringer Ingelheim’s Combivent Respimat (ipratropium bromide and albuterol sulfate), which is delivered in a propellant-free inhaler that uses a slow-moving mist to deliver the same active ingredients as the Combivent Inhalation Aerosol. The company expects to launch the drug in the middle of this year. In November, generic drug maker Mylan bought rights to a drug delivery platform made by Pfizer that would allow it to manufacture and commercialize generic versions of GlaxoSmithKline’s Advair Diskus and Seretide Diskus (fluticasone propionate and salmeterol).

Meanwhile, despite growth in the COPD market, the asthma market is expected to decrease slightly and remain basically flat. According to another Decision Resources report, the asthma market in the same seven countries the firm used to measure the COPD market is expected to decline from $14.6 billion in 2010 to $14.4 billion in 2020. In contrast with the plethora of new drugs for COPD, the asthma market will see increased competition and generic erosion. For example, Merck’s Singulair (montelukast) had sales of $3.3 billion in 2010, but that figure is expected to drop to $2 billion in the United States, Europe and Japan due to generic competition.

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