study on the safety of a mist inhaler used to treat chronic lung disease has
found it does not increase the risk of patients dying early, in contrast to an
earlier analysis published two years ago.
The reassuring result with a
formulation of Boehringer Ingelheim's Spiriva delivered through its new
Respimat device is good news for the German drug maker and potentially for
others developing rival products containing so-called LAMA drugs.
Data from the
17 135 patient study, comparing the safety and efficacy of Spiriva Respimat
against a formulation of the drug given via the older HandiHaler device, were
unveiled at the European Respiratory Society congress in Barcelona on Sunday.
in the field include GlaxoSmithKline, whose experimental product Anoro
combining a LAMA drug with a different kind of treatment called a LABA will be
assessed by a US Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on September
10. The encouraging safety message on Spiriva Respimat may lower the regulatory
hurdle for such new LAMA-containing products, industry analysts believe.
drug makers are betting that LABA/LAMA inhalers will become the first choice
for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which causes debilitating
breathlessness and affects more than 200 million people worldwide. Other
companies working on long-acting beta-2-agonist (LABA) and long-acting
muscarinic antagonist (LAMA) combinations include Novartis, which has an
alliance with Vectura; AstraZeneca, following its recent acquisition of Pearl
Therapeutics; and a partnership of Almirall and Forest Laboratories.
itself also has a LABA/LAMA drug in development. Current market-leading drugs
for COPD include Spiriva and GSK's Advair. Spiriva has been on the market since
2002 but concerns about its safety were aroused in 2011 when a study based on a
pooled analysis of previous trials suggested patients taking it via the
Respimat device increased their risk of dying by 52% compared to those on
Boehringer and its marketing partner Pfizer disputed the findings at
the time. The new three-year clinical trial found Respimat was just as safe as
the older HandiHaler inhaler and that COPD patients enjoyed a median 756 days
without a sustained worsening of symptoms against 719 days among those using
The new trial did not include a placebo group. Boehringer hopes
the new company-sponsored trial – one of the biggest to date in COPD – will
draw a line under the safety question and reinforce the benefits of all Spiriva
formulations. The outcome is also important for Boehringer's future ambitions
in developing new medicines, including its LABA/LAMA product, since these also
rely on the Respimat device. The new study, which was sponsored by Boehringer,
was published simultaneously in the New England Journal of Medicine.