Tobacco company Philip Morris International’s (PMI) proposed takeover of inhaler manufacturer, Vectura, would create an ‘ethical dilemma’ for healthcare professionals, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has warned.

The RPS has called on the Government to oppose the takeover, after saying that tobacco companies should not profit from the illnesses their products cause.

PMI, which has recently committed to helping create a smoke-free future, announced the offer to acquire Vectura in July.

Last week, the offer was accepted by the asthma inhaler manufacturer’s board. In a statement to the stock market on Thursday (12 August), the board said it considered the offer from PMI to be ‘fair and reasonable’.

However, the RPS has said it is ‘deeply concerned’ about the possible acquisition.

On Friday (13 August) RPS president, Claire Anderson, said: ‘We are deeply concerned about the proposed takeover of Vectura by PMI.

‘This takeover not only raises ethical concerns that a company whose tobacco products harm the public may later profit from providing a treatment, but also creates an ethical dilemma for healthcare professionals.

‘We strongly urge the Government to oppose this takeover to protect the public and healthcare professionals.’

A PMI spokesperson said: 'PMI intends to keep Vectura as an autonomous business unit forming the backbone of PMI's inhaled therapeutics business. In addition to supporting its current CDMO strategy, PMI will bring Vectura the opportunity and tools to undertake the end-to-end development of inhalable drug-device combinations and will provide access to PMI's capabilities in areas such as pre-clinical safety, clinical development, regulatory affairs, drug safety.

'PMI has conducted more than 20 clinical trials with leading Clinical Research Organizations over the past 10 years. Advancements in public health are best achieved when private and public groups work together to best leverage science, openly and inclusively, and not through scare tactics and scientific exclusion promoted by special interest groups.'

‘Beyond nicotine’

PMI has said the acquisition is part of its ‘beyond nicotine’ strategy and commitment to a smoke-free future, which it hopes will bring benefits to patients, public health and society.

In a statement in July, which announced PMI’s intention to acquire Vectura, CEO Jacek Olczak said: ‘PMI’s Beyond Nicotine strategy, announced in February, articulates a clear ambition to leverage our expertise in inhalation and aerosolization into adjacent areas—including respiratory drug delivery and selfcare wellness—with a goal to reach at least $1 billion in net revenues by 2025.

‘PMI has the commitment to science and the financial resources to empower Vectura’s skilled team to execute on an ambitious long-term vision.

‘Together, PMI and Vectura can lead this global category, bringing benefits to patients, to consumers, to public health, and to society-at-large.’

PMI also acquired another inhaled drug specialist, OtiTopic, earlier this month.

Last year, the number of stop-smoking products dispensed in England dropped for the tenth consecutive year.

However, over 30% of smokers are lighting up more regularly since the start of the pandemic, according to research by Mintel.