The UK’s Vectura Group, which specialises in inhaled products, has signed an agreement with "a US division of an undisclosed leading international pharmaceutical company" for VR315, a combination therapy for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma that is widely thought to be a generic version of GlaxoSmithKline’s blockbuster Advair.

Under the terms of the agreement, Vectura will receive an initial payment of $10 million and up to $35 million in development milestones, plus royalties from all VR315 US sales. Chris Blackwell, chief executive of the Chippenham-headquartered firm, was coy about the identity of the partner, merely noting that it has "a strong track record in respiratory product development and commercialisation" and is "committed to the successful development of VR315 for the lucrative US market".

He added that this is "a major endorsement of the potential value of this product, Vectura’s technology and product development expertise". In March 2010, the company reacquired the US rights to VR315 from Novartis unit Sandoz, which is rumoured to be a generic version of GSK's Advair (fluticasone/salmeterol).

Sandoz is still developing VR315 in Europe and analysts have said generic versions of Advair could hit the market in the next six to nine months. However, GSK has noted that even though copycat versions containing the same active ingredients will be available, the inhaler device used for Advair means that competing products will not be fully substitutable.