The FINANCIAL — Novartis' lung treatment QVA149 met its main goals in three late-stage trials for the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, often known as smokers' cough, as the Swiss drug maker races against British rival GlaxoSmithKline to offer treatments in the lucrative respiratory business.
Basel-based Novartis said Monday that daily doses of QVA149, a combination of Novartis' Onbrez Breezhaler, or indacaterol, and NVA237, or glycopyrronium bromide, worked better than the same doses of the individual components only, as showed by the SHINE trial. The BRIGHT trial showed patients on QVA149 had better exercise endurance than those taking a placebo, while the ENLIGHTEN study showed the drug was well-tolerated.
The development is seen as only "incrementally positive," rather than a breakthrough, as detailed study results will have to be compared to established products such as Glaxo's Advair for the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, said analyst David Kaegi with Bank Sarasin in Zurich. "In the important U.S. market, there is still considerable uncertainty over how Novartis will proceed with QVA149," Kaegi said.
The three studies are part of a 10-trial program, dubbed IGNITE, whose first seven studies are expected to complete this year. According to Borsa Italiana – London Stock Exchange Group, they include more than 5,700 patients and support planned filings in the EU and Japan, Novartis said. Included in the program is a head-to-head trial against Glaxo's Seretide, or Advair, dubbed ILLUMINATE, also expected to complete in the second quarter of 2012, Novartis said.
Advair, a bestseller for the U.K. drug maker, is losing patent protection in Europe in 2013.
At 0900 GMT, Novartis shares were trading 0.7% higher at CHF50.30.
COPD is predicted to be the third-highest cause of death in the world by 2020, Novartis said. Associated mainly with tobacco smoking and air pollution, it causes breathing trouble and coughing and affects an estimated 210 million people worldwide.