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Bronchitis pill results `better than expected'

Sufferers of chronic bronchitis were offered hope yesterday after Cortecs, the UK healthcare company specialising in oral drug delivery, said results from trials of a bronchitis vaccine pill were much better than expected. Cortecs' share price, which has been under a cloud since May, surged almost 10 per cent to 237.5p.

Glen Travers, Cortecs chief executive, said patients taking the pill, called Pseudostat, in phase II trials had 10 times fewer bouts of infection than those on dummy pills in the five months after treatment ended. "Pseudostat is quite impressive. We have a unique product that can deal with a respiratory disease that hasn't been adequately treated with other medicines," Mr Travers said.

Analysts were cautiously optimistic. Stewart Adkins of Lehman Brothers said: "These results look very positive. The key is whether people on this drug need to use less antibiotic. But if these results indicate that Cortecs' oral vaccine technology works, it could be quite significant."

Mr Travers said the company would begin final-stage clinical trials of Pseudostat this year and would file for registration in Europe in 1998. "That is aggressive, but we really plan to push this drug," he said.

Chronic bronchitis, a bacterial lung infection responsible for 5 per cent of all deaths in the UK, is treated with antibiotics and often involves hospitalisation. Mr Travers said patients taking Pseudostat needed to take less antibiotic and of the 91 sufferers tested, none taking Pseudostat needed to be hospitalised.

Commenting on the recent share price weakness, which followed Cortecs' presentation in May of crucial final-stage data on its lead pill to treat brittle bones, Macritonin, Mr Travers said: "We don't feel any nervousness about that trial."