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Boehringer's Spiriva: Advancing COPD Therapy

Executive Summary

Boehringer Ingelheim's new COPD treatment, Spiriva, could be a blockbuster--particularly if its worldwide marketing partner Pfizer can increase diagnosis of the disease and expand COPD drugs' prescribing base from specialists to GPs. But, complicating matters for Boehringer, Pfizer--through its proposed acquisition of Pharmacia--will also market the PDE-4 inhibitor roflumilast, Altana's next-generation COPD therapy.

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Altana's Daxas Breaks from the Pack

Altana's Phase III PDE-4 inhibitor Daxas has shown promising preliminary results in a second late-stage clinical trial. But class-wide concerns about the long-term safety and efficacy of this new generation of respiratory drugs-and the recent high-profile thrashing of GSK's Ariflo at the hands of an FDA advisory committee-suggest that the devil may be in the details, which aren't due to be released until May 2004. But as the competition falters, and if Daxas can remain standing, the drug could transform Altana into a truly global pharmaceutical firm while providing Pfizer with the best one-two respiratory punch in the industry.

Lilly Enlists Boehringer for Duloxetine

A $280 million deal with Eli Lilly for duloxetine allows Boehringer Ingelheim to expand its presence in both urology and CNS--thanks to Lilly's deluge of near-market therapeutics, which has required the firm for the first time to enter a significant co-promotion deal for one of its own important products.

Pfizer's Balancing Act

Unlike other major companies, Pfizer has successfully counterbalanced the disappointments of its internal R&D with the certainties of other companies' marketable products--first through co-promotions, and later through acquisitions--and its own sales capabilities. But things seem to have changed: by acquiring Pharmacia, Pfizer does as much as it can to assure investors above-average industry growth for the next several years and dilute the impact of the genericization of major products in 2006-7. But the deal also may limit Pfizer's ability to access new late-stage compounds, and thereby hedge the risk that its own pipeline won't produce, as potential licensers evaluate the implications of hooking up with a company which has gobbled up its two most important partners. Instead, Pfizer must depend on M&A to counterbalance risk of R&D failure-but given stronger anti-trust concerns and Pfizer's own breadth of R&D and product line, its acquisition choices will be limited. Nonetheless, with its near-term growth problems settled, Pfizer has created for itself important breathing room unavailable to most of its competitors--and thus greater ability to take advantage of new opportunities that develop.

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