Less than a month until he takes over as chief executive at GlaxoSmithKline, Andrew Witty has announced a number of changes to help the firm face “a rapidly changing environment”.

Noting that the demand for innovative medicines continues to grow, “we are also presented with increasing challenges, such as cost containment, regulatory pressures and generic competition,” he said, and one way is to increase GSK’s global reach and presence. Specifically, Mr Witty has announced a new ‘Emerging Markets’ region, claiming that Brazil, Russia, India, China and the Middle East are significant growth drivers of the future.

He added that these places “are already contributing close to 25% of today's market growth and are forecast to grow even faster in the future, around triple the rate of western countries”. He went on to say that “it is essential that we have an operating structure that is dynamic and responsive to the opportunities in these markets”.

GSK added that a new Asia Pacific region will also be created, which includes Japan and Australia, while its new North American unit will combine the firm’s US, Canadian and Puerto Rican operations.

Mr Witty, who replaces Jean-Pierre Garnier on May 22, also announced a new dedicated team for corporate strategy and development, which will “proactively seek new business opportunities to expand our global reach and drive sales growth”. He concluded by saying that he wants to “sustain and develop the strong ethical culture of GSK”, so the firm can meet “the highest standards expected of us by society”.

New Advair approval
Mr Witty’s comments as GSK received an expanded approval from regulators in the USA for its blockbuster Advair (fluticasone/salmeterol).

The US Food and Drug Administration has backed Advair for the reduction of exacerbations in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, making it the only drug approved to cut COPD exacerbations. Getting the green light means that GSK can market Advair to a wider patient population, ie not only patients with COPD associated with chronic bronchitis, but also emphysema or both conditions.

Best known as an asthma treatment, Advair was approved in the USA in 2003 for the maintenance treatment of airflow obstruction in patients with COPD associated with chronic bronchitis. The expanded approval came just hours after AstraZeneca submitted a supplemental New Drug Application to the FDA to seek approval of the COPD indication for its own asthma combination drug Symbicort (formoterol and budesonide).