Forest Labs notches victory en route to FDA ruling on COPD drug

Eyeing the major market for a chronic lung condition, Forest Laboratories ($FRX) picked up the backing of an FDA panel for its experimental COPD drug known as aclidinium. It's a key endorsement for the New York-based drugmaker, which would be competing in the COPD arena with a crowd of Big Pharma outfits that includes GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK), Pfizer ($PFE) and AstraZeneca ($AZN) if the FDA approves its treatment.   

Impressed with the clinical evidence on the inhaled drug, the non-agency experts on the FDA panel voted 12-2 that the treatment should be approved, Bloomberg reported. Yet there were concerns raised about the potential cardiovascular side effects linked to the drug, and at least one panelist called for a post-marketing study to dig deeper into the question about the risk. Still, clinical studies showed the drug's cardiovascular risks were lower than those of other COPD treatments, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Forest, which has rights to market aclidinium in the U.S. from Spanish developer Almirall, is in a crowded race to grab a piece of the blockbuster COPD market with a new product. GSK, which already markets Advair for the lung ailment, has a Phase III program under way with partner Theravance ($THRX) for the experimental drug Relovair. Swiss drug giant Novartis ($NVS) has a horse in this race as well with its potential blockbuster QVA149. And up-and-coming developer Pearl Therapeutics, a 2011 Fierce 15 company, is making headway with its mid-stage trials for its own contender.

With a number of existing products already on the market for COPD, which affects 12 million Americans, expect U.S. regulators to have a high safety standard for any candidate that would be used to treat the chronic illness. No doubt they'll likely see plenty of new drugs for the condition over the next few years, allowing regulators to be choosy.  

- check out the WSJ's article
- see the Reuters report
- and Bloomberg's piece