Bizarre: Tobacco giant buys a company that makes asthma inhalers

Bizarre: Tobacco giant buys a company that makes asthma inhalers


A UK company that makes products for the treatment of lung problems could end up in the hands of one of the largest cigarette manufacturers in the world, leading health organizations to urge the UK government to buck the deal.

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A UK company that makes products for the treatment of lung problems could end up in the hands of one of the largest cigarette manufacturers in the world, leading health organizations to urge the UK government to buck the deal.

The tobacco company that invented the “Marlboro Man” caused a stir in medical circles when it invested in a company that could develop inhalation technology and potentially benefit from the smoking-related lung diseases it caused.

Philip Morris International is in the process of acquiring Vectura, a UK company specializing in inhalation technology for lung diseases.

An open letter signed by 35 health organizations and public health experts urged Vectura’s board members to decline a takeover bid from Philip Morris International. The letter’s signatories, led by Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, said a deal could “significantly affect Vectura’s research and product development capabilities.”

The deal would increase the tobacco giant’s ambitions to generate more than half of its net sales from smoke-free products like e-cigarettes and respiratory drugs within four years, up from around a quarter today.

For companies such as Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline, Vectura has manufactured 13 inhaled medicines to treat respiratory diseases such as asthma.

The company is currently working with Inspira Pharmaceuticals, another UK company, on inhalation therapy for COVID-19.

Campaign groups have criticized tobacco companies for applying as part of the transition to a smoke-free society, while continuing to sell and promote cigarettes around the world, despite long-standing denials of the health effects of smoking.

The tobacco epidemic is described by the World Health Organization as “one of the greatest public health problems the world has ever faced”.

According to the United Nations, more than 8 million people die each year from smoking, including secondhand smoke.

(With contributions from agencies)

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