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Novartis (NVS) Reports Positive Data on Ultibro Breezhaler

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Novartis AG (NVS - Free Report) recently announced positive data from the FLAME study on Ultibro Breezhaler. Data was published in the centenary issue of the American Thoracic Society's 'American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Novartis’ has outperformed the Zacks classified industry year to date. The stock has rallied 11.8% compared with the Large Cap Pharmaceuticals industry’s gain of 10.4%.

Data from the head-to-head randomized, double-blind, double-dummy, parallel-group, non-inferiority, active-controlled 52-week study, FLAME, indicated that inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) may not be needed in some chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients with high blood eosinophil (a type of white blood cell).

The new data showed that Ultibro Breezhaler consistently provided superior or similar benefits over Seretide in COPD patients regardless of the eosinophil count.

We note that FLAME study is a part of the phase III clinical program, IGNITE. Ultibro Breezhaler 110/50 mcg was approved in Europe in 2013 as a maintenance bronchodilator treatment to relieve symptoms in adult patients with COPD.  The latest results from the FLAME trial bode well for the drug.

The Novartis COPD portfolio includes Ultibro Breezhaler, Seebri Breezhaler and Onbrez Breezhaler  which are all indicated as maintenance treatments for COPD patients. Sales from the COPD portfolio came in at $155 million in the first quarter of 2017, up 6%.

Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc. owns the commercialization rights for Utibron Neohaler, Arcapta Neohaler and Seebri Neohaler in the U.S. while Novartis holds the rights outside the U.S.

We remind investors that Theravance Biopharma, Inc. (TBPH - Free Report) along with its partner Mylan (MYL - Free Report) also recently announced additional efficacy and safety data on its COPD candidate, revefenacin (TD-4208).

Meanwhile, growth from new products like Cosentyx and Entresto more than offset the impact of Gleevec’s patent expiration at Novartis.Cosentyx attained blockbuster status in 2016. The recent approval of Kisqali in the U.S. and priority review status for CTL019 also bodes well for the company’s portfolio.

Zacks Rank and Key Picks

Novartis currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). A better-ranked stock in the health care sector is VIVUS, Inc. , which sports a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks Rank #1 stocks here.

VIVUS’ loss per share estimates narrowed from 50 cents to 39 cents for 2017 over the last 30 days. The company posted positive earnings surprises in all of the four trailing quarters, with an average beat of 233.7%.

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