* Onbrez Breezhaler plus Pfizer drug help COPD patients
* Combination results in better improvement in lung function
* Duo better than taking only Pfizer's Spiriva Handihaler
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ZURICH, Feb 10 Patients with a deadly lung
disease who took Novartis's NOVN.VX Onbrez Breezhaler as well
as Pfizer's (PFE.N) Spiriva HandiHaler had better lung function
than those taking only the Pfizer treatment, studies showed.
The news comes as a boost to Novartis's respiratory
franchise and underscores the strength of the Swiss drugmaker's
pipeline ahead of the imminent patent expiry of key drugs such
The results of the two late-stage studies in patients with
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) will be presented
at the American Thoracic Society congress in May this year,
Novartis said in a statement on Thursday.
The two classes of medicines have different modes of action,
but both therapies are inhaled to provide bronchodilation, or
increased airflow into the patient's lungs, Novartis said.
Last year, Novartis said a late-stage trial showed Onbrez
reduced breathlessness more effectively than Spiriva, known
generically as tiotropium, in COPD, while it was just as
effective in improving lung function.[ID:nLDE6A20B0]
Spiriva and HandiHaler are registered trademarks of
Boehringer Ingelheim Pharma GmbH & Co. KG.
Onbrez Breezhaler won European Union approval in COPD in
2009, lifting Novartis's ambitions in respiratory medicine, a
field currently dominated by AstraZeneca (AZN.L),
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L) and Pfizer.
COPD is a progressive, life-threatening respiratory disease
commonly caused by cigarette smoke and other harmful fumes and
particles, resulting in inflammation and narrowing of airways.
It affects 210 million people worldwide and is projected to
be the third leading cause of death by 2020, Novartis said.
Until recently, Novartis was not on the radar as a major
force in lung drugs, which are more difficult to make because of
the inhaler devices needed.
The field is now becoming increasingly important to Novartis
as it develops new drugs and cheap generic versions of older
products such as Glaxo's Advair.
At 1202 GMT, Novartis shares were trading 0.6 percent lower,
slightly worse than a lower European Healthcare sector .SXDP.
(Reporting by Katie Reid; Editing by Will Waterman)