AstraZeneca’s Asthma Injection Helps Lungs in Advanced Tests

  • Patients’ lung function improved four weeks after first shot
  • Benralizumab to enter crowded field led by Glaxo, Teva drugs

An AstraZeneca Plc injection helped boost lung function and relieve the symptoms of patients with severe asthma in two advanced clinical trials, paving the way for a regulatory submission later this year.

Four weeks after the first injection of the experimental medicine benralizumab, the lung function of the asthma sufferers taking part in the studies showed improvement, the drugmaker said in a statement Monday. Wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath were alleviated as well, according to the studies, presented at the European Respiratory Society’s meeting in London.

Benralizumab, which Chief Executive Officer Pascal Soriot touted as a potential $2 billion blockbuster two years ago, will join a crowded field: GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s Nucala and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.’s Cinqair are already sold for severe asthma. Both are also biological medicines that target eosinophils, the white blood cells that drive lung inflammation in about half of asthma patients -- an approach that shifts from battling the symptoms to treating one of the disease’s underlying causes. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg estimate that benralizumab’s sales will reach $537 million in 2021.

Soriot’s revenue forecasts are under scrutiny after he pledged to boost sales to about $40 billion to $41 billion by 2023 by doubling down on AstraZeneca’s pipeline of treatments for cancer, respiratory ailments and heart disease. The company aims to seek regulatory approval to sell benralizumab for severe asthma patients in the U.S. and Europe this year.

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