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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Bizarre: Tobacco giant to buy a company that makes asthma inhalers

A UK business that makes products to treat lung problems might end up in the hands of one of the world’s largest cigarette manufacturers, prompting health organisations to call on the British government to oppose the deal. 

The tobacco firm that created the ‘Marlboro Man’ has stirred uproar in medical circles with a move to invest in a business that develops inhaler technology, potentially allowing it to profit from the smoking-related lung ailments it helped create.

Philip Morris International is in the process of acquiring Vectura, a UK company that specialises in lung disease inhaler technology.

An open letter signed by 35 health charities and public health experts urged Vectura board members to reject a takeover bid by Philip Morris International. Signatories of the letter, led by Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, said a deal “could significantly hamper Vectura’s research and product development capabilities.”

The deal would boost the tobacco giant’s ambition to generate more than half of its net revenue from smoke-free products such as e-cigarettes and respiratory drugs within four years, up from about a quarter today. 

For firms like Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline, Vectura has produced 13 inhaled medicines to treat respiratory disorders like asthma.

It is presently collaborating with Inspira Pharmaceuticals, another UK firm, on an inhalation therapy for COVID-19. 

Campaign groups have criticised tobacco companies for promoting themselves as part of the transition to a smoke-free society while continuing to sell and advertise cigarettes around the world, despite a long history of denying the health consequences of smoking.

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

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

(With inputs from agencies)

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