AstraZeneca boosted in asthma battle with GSK

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The Independent Online

AstraZeneca's asthma drug Symbicourt was given a major boost yesterday when a head-to-head study concluded that it was more effective in controlling asthma than Seretide, GlaxoSmithKline's biggest selling drug.

The results of the study, presented at a World Allergy Organisation conference in Vancouver, showed that adjustable doses of Symbicourt were more effective in controlling asthma than Seretide.

The two drugs already compete in the European market, where Symbicourt claims more than 25 per cent of the market for asthma drugs used in combination. Symbicourt is expected to launch in the US, the world's most lucrative healthcare market, in 2006.

Seretide, known in the US as Advair, has grown to be GSK's biggest seller, with sales of more than £1bn in the first half of the year, including £370m in Europe. Symbicourt had sales of $249m (£160m).

GSK said the improvement shown by Symbicourt patients was small and criticised the design of the trials, because the Symbicourt dosage could be adjusted, while the Seretide dose could not.

Kerry Heath, analyst at Lehman Brothers, said: "Marketing the new data could further enhance AstraZeneca's position in the asthma market."