Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is America’s third leading cause of death. It is a lung disease caused due to continuous poor airflow as a result of which the lung tissues breakdown. More than 80% of the cases are due to smoking and tend to worsen with increase in age and smoke intake.
When over 13 million people in the US are affected by a single disease then it gives drug makers an opportunity to cater to this market. The good news for COPD patients is that a number of companies are in the process of making various drugs to treat this ailment and I expect some of them to launch shortly.
One company which has drawn my attention in this regard is Theravance Inc (NASDAQ:THRX). The company is about to get an approval for its highly anticipated drug Anoro, which would be good news for the patients of COPD and investors alike.
Products and pipeline
Theravance Inc (NASDAQ:THRX) has been working with GSK on the discovery of products related to the treatment of respiratory problems. Currently the two FDA approved drugs of the company includes: “Breo Ellipta” for the treatment of COPD and “Vibativ” for the treatment of a bacterial pneumonia caused by Staphylococcus aureus.
Another drug of the company called Relvar Ellipta is also under review by FDA and EU authorities. All these drugs have helped the company lift sales from $25 million in 2011 to $136 million in 2012. Furthermore, the company has a long pipeline of Phase II compounds related to the treatment of respiratory problems, bacterial infections, CNS/Pain and GI Motility Dysfunction.
Where other approved drugs for COPD have either a long-acting beta agonist (LABA) or a long-acting muscarinic antagonist (LAMA), Anoro is a combination of both. The LABAs relax the airway muscles along with the LAMAs which help minimize airway obstruction.
Clinical studies have indicated that Anoro would be better than all the other COPD treatment drugs currently available in the market. The drug is expected to get its approval from the FDA and E.U. by December and analysts believe that it has the capacity to generate revenues as high as $1 billion annually.
Due to the size of the healthcare industry in the U.S., it is quite difficult to maintain exclusivity on a drug. So even if Anoro gets approved by the end of this year it would not be the only LABA/LAMA COPD drug in the market. Novartis AG (ADR) (NYSE:NVS) is making sure that the time span of Anoro’s exclusivity in the market is as small as possible.