Novartis has presented data showing that its chronic obstructive pulmonary disease drug Ultibro was superior in reducing flare-ups compared to GlaxoSmithKline’s blockbuster Seretide.

Fndings from the head-to-head LANTERN study were presented at the European Respiratory Society congress in Munich demonstrated that once-daily Ultibro Breezhaler (indacaterol/glycopyrronium) was superior in reducing exacerbations and improving lung function compared to twice-daily Seretide Accuhaler (salmeterol/fluticasone). Specifically, it reduced the rate of moderate-to-severe exacerbations by 31% compared to Seretide in moderate-to-severe COPD patients with a history of one exacerbation or none in the previous year.

In addition, patients on the Novartis combo had significantly increased lung function compared to Seretide after 26 weeks of treatment and a similar safety profile. The study recruited 744 patients at 56 sites in Argentina, Chile, China and Taiwan; the latter two countries made up 80% of participants.

Vasant Narasimhan, head of development at Novartis Pharmaceuticals, said the results “provide further evidence of the potential of Ultibro Breezhaler to deliver better exacerbation reduction and improvements in lung function, compared to the current standard of care”, namely Seretide.

The GSK combo contains a steroid (fluticasone) and speaking to journalists at the ERS, Ken Chapman of the University of Toronto noted that there has been “substantial inappropriate use” of inhaled steroids which are dispensed liberally in severe COPD cases. They come with an increased risk of pneumonia, fractures and cataracts, among other conditions.

Last week, Novartis signed a deal which will see Pfizer promote Ultibro and another COPD drug Seebri (glycopyrronium) in the UK, which is also delivered through the Breezhaler device. While the latter has been available in the UK market since November 2012, Ultibro, which has a European licence, has not yet been launched.