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Walmsley suggests GSK needs bigger product launches

Says the firm should have fewer and more focused priorities


Just a few years ago industry observers were talking about the death of the blockbuster model, but it seems it is still very much alive and well in pharma. In fact, GlaxoSmithKline's new chief executive Emma Walmsley says that focusing on big brands will be the driver for the firm's R&D efforts in the coming years.

Speaking as the company reported stronger-than-expected first-quarter sales and earnings figures, Walmsley said the objective is to have "probably fewer and more focused priorities, to have bigger launches".

She also suggested that the company could be taking some decisions on the future of both marketed and pipeline projects in the coming months, potentially jettisoning some products and winnowing down R&D to zero in on the most commercially-appealing projects.

That would be reminiscent of the approach taken by AstraZeneca (AZ), which has been selling off assets in the last couple of years in order to pump more cash into its R&D portfolio.

Overall, GSK's pharma sales leaped 17% to £4.19bn in the first three months of the year, with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) drug Advair (salmeterol and fluticasone) once again heading the portfolio with sales of £752m, down just 12% because generic competition but has not yet come into play in the crucial US market. New product sales were up £1.4bn on track to deliver GSK's target of £6bn in sales in 2018.

The" immediate focus" in GSK's pipeline is on shingles vaccines Shingrix, the closed triple respiratory regimen for COPD and the first of the two-drug HIV regimens being developed at the company's majority-owned ViiV Healthcare unit, with regulatory decisions on all of these expected in the next 12 months, said Walmsley.

She cautioned however that the next wave of major product launches for GSK is not expected until the early 2020s, promising to run through the company's longer-term R&D plans during the second-quarter results presentation in July.

Walmsley made it clear that GSK is facing an unpredictable commercial, political and regulatory environment and that "tough choices, and disciplined choices" would be needed to identify the drugs that would form that new launch wave. At the moment the pipeline is "promising but unproven", she added.

The new CEO also reaffirmed her commitment to the diversified structure at GSK - spanning pharma, vaccines and consumer health - saying that was a sensible approach in an uncertain climate.

"We see both logic and benefit of being a three-group company, especially in the light of the volatility of pharmaceuticals," she said.

Article by
Phil Taylor

28th April 2017

From: Sales



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