COPD Foundation Condemns Big Tobacco Acquisition of Pharmaceutical Company

A company that profits from the sale of tobacco products that cause COPD should not profit from the sale of products that treat COPD


Washington, D.C., July 29, 2021 – Philip Morris International, which markets cigarettes internationally, is purchasing the pharmaceutical company Vectura Group PLC, which develops and manufactures inhalers widely used by patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). The COPD Foundation condemns this acquisition. A company that profits from the sale of products that cause COPD should not benefit from the sale of products that treat COPD. It stretches the boundaries of corporate morality.

“We are concerned that this alliance may lead to unintended consequences that harm patients. Patients, Providers, Payers, and Pharmacies will likely face the ethical dilemma as to whether it is appropriate to use treatments that profit Big Tobacco,” stated Dr. Byron Thomashow, COPD Foundation’s Chief Medical Officer. In addition, research with links to the tobacco industry is generally not funded by public organizations. Life-saving research may not be possible if it includes inhaled devices manufactured by Vectura.

The position of Phillip Morris that those who oppose the alliance of Big Tobacco and Pharma are promoting the continuing sale of tobacco products is preposterous. Phillip Morris can cease the distribution of tobacco products without the incentive to profit from the diseases that it causes.

“The COPD Foundation joins growing concern from the United Kingdom government and other associations/organizations including the American Lung Association and American Thoracic Society calling for the prevention of the Phillip Morris-Vectura acquisition by stockholder opposition and action of the United Kingdom government,” stated Dr. Ruth Tal-Singer, President and Chief Scientific Officer of the COPD Foundation.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), tobacco kills over 8 million people each year. COPD is primarily caused by tobacco cigarette smoking and accounts for 150,000 deaths per year in the United States and over 3 million deaths globally as the third leading cause of death worldwide. COPD is treated with inhaled medications that dilate the airways and reduce lung inflammation. These treatments are delivered by inhaled aerosols or fine powders that are deposited in the lung. Vectura develops and manufactures these inhaled products in collaboration with major pharmaceutical companies.

About the COPD Foundation
The COPD Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that was established to improve the lives of people with COPD, bronchiectasis, and nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) lung disease through initiatives that expand services and speed innovations which will make treatment more effective and affordable. We do this through scientific research, education, advocacy, and awareness with the goal of disease prevention, slowed progression, and ultimately a cure. The COPD Foundation leadership and Medical and Scientific advisory committee include representatives of the lung community, clinical science, genetics, and the social sciences (bioethics, economics, and/or law).

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