Roche’s agreement to buy to acquire the US-based biotechnology company InterMune Inc for $8.3 billion is expected to give a boost to the Swiss drug maker’s respiratory product line-up.

InterMune’s lead medicine pirfenidone is approved for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) in the EU and Canada and under regulatory review in the US. IPF is a progressive, irreversible and ultimately fatal disease characterised by progressive loss of lung function due to fibrosis, or scarring, in the lungs. Roche markets Pulmozyme and Xolair in the US and has other novel therapeutic medicines targeting respiratory diseases in clinical development.

On 17 July 2014, pirfenidone received breakthrough therapy designation from the FDA. This designation is reserved for drugs that are intended to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition and preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the drug may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies on one or more clinically significant endpoints. The target action date, also known as the PDUFA date, for the pirfenidone NDA is November 23, 2014.