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Roche (RHHBY - Analyst Report) recently announced encouraging data from phase IIb studies, LUTE / VERSE on asthma candidate lebrikizumab.

The data was presented at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) in California.

The data from the studies showed that lebrikizumab-treated patients with a high level of the biomarker periostin (a protein that indicates a certain type of asthma) depicted a 60% reduction in asthma attacks as compared to only 5% reduction in patients with a low level of periostin.

In addition, lebrikizumab improved lung function in patients with high periostin levels. Lebrikizumab was generally well-tolerated and the safety profile was consistent with previous study results.

As per AAAAI estimates, a quarter of a million people worldwide die every year from asthma on a worldwide basis.

We note that lebrikizumab is currently being evaluated in adult patients with severe uncontrolled asthma in two phase III studies -- LAVOLTA I and LAVOLTA II.

Roche is also evaluating lebrikizumab for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

We note that Roche’s Xolair is already approved for the treatment of asthma. Xolair was one of the leading drugs for Roche in 2013 generating sales of $790 million, up 13% year over year.

The successful development of lebrikizumab for severe asthma will further strengthen Roche’s immunology portfolio.

Roche currently carries a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell). Some better-ranked stocks in the pharma industry include Novo Nordisk (NVO - Analyst Report), Shire (SHPG - Analyst Report) and Forest Laboratories . While Shire is a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) stock, the other two carry a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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