GlaxoSmithKline chief executive Sir Andrew Witty is not looking to jump on the mega-merger merry-go-round but says he is keen on more partnerships similar to the product swap signed with Novartis last week.

Sir Andrew was speaking after GSK posted a 10% decline in sales for the first quarter to £5.61 billion, while core operating profit fell 18% to £1.53 billion. Unsurprisingly, the subject of Pfizer's takeover bid for AstraZeneca came up on a conference call but the GSK boss limited himself to saying he is "an interested observer".

The likelihood that GSK could come in with a rival bid looks extremely remote and Sir Andrew noted that while mega-mergers may be easier deals to conclude, he prefers more targeted pacts where "you are focused on the things you want to focus on, not the other 20 or 30 things" which were not part of a buyer's interest in the first place.  

As for the financials, pharmaceutical and vaccines turnover in the USA was down 10% (at  constant exchange rates) to £1.13 billion, as sales across the Atlantic of Advair (salmeterol and fluticasone) for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, fell 30% to £455 million. Also the launch of its new COPD drug Breo (fluticasone furoate/vilanterol) has been disappointing and it contributed just £1 million to GSK's coffers.

However, European turnover for its drugs grew 3% to just over £1 billion, while emerging markets pharma/vaccines sales were up 2% to £691 million. Sir Andrew added that with around 40 new molecular entities currently in Phase II/III, GSK’s late-stage pipeline "remains attractive and we expect the next wave of innovative R&D opportunities to become more visible as this year progresses".

Meantime, a day after a similar decision by regulators in Europe, the US Food and Drug Administration has given the green light to GSK's new COPD drug Incruse (umeclidinium). The drug is a once-daily long-acting muscarinic antagonist (LAMA) delivered by GSK's Ellipta inhaler.