AstraZeneca’s franchise has received a major boost after a new study suggests that the firm’s asthma drug Symbicort (budesonide/formoterol) used as single inhaler therapy can achieve better control of symptoms than rival GlaxoSmithKline’s Seretide (salmeterol/fluticasone).

The COSMOS open-label study, which was presented at the American Thoracic Society meeting in San Diego, investigated 2,143 moderate to severe asthma patients over a year. It notes that by using Symbicort as a reliever, in addition to its usual role as maintenance treatment, patients were able to reduce the risk of a severe asthma attack by 25% and required less rescue medication compared to patients using Seretide with a separate reliever.

Commenting on the study, Dr Dave Singh, senior lecturer at South Manchester University Hospitals Trust, said that “this is an important moment in the management of asthma," adding that the Symbicort SiT concept “empowers patients to take control of their own disease and the impressive results of the COSMOS study demonstrate the potential for this approach.”

AstraZeneca says that COSMOS corroborates from a number of other trials (STAY, STEAM and STEP) “which together form a robust clinical trial programme of over 13,000 patients” and the company will use this data to back Symbicort SiT’s application for European approval. The firm decided against an earlier filing [[04/11/04c]] as it waited for the COSMOS data but now the prospects of improving on Symbicort worldwide sales of $797 million in 2004 look good.

The latest news comes just a week after the European Patent Office ruled that a patent covering Symbicort in the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is valid [[13/05/05g]].