AstraZeneca plc's acquisition of Almirall S.A.'s respiratory assets should buy the pharma time while its respiratory pipeline matures. The deal not only gives AstraZeneca a faster route to market in the COPD combination therapy race - moving it into third place behind GlaxoSmithKline plc and Novartis AG - but also gives AZ a greater range of choices for combination therapies in two device formats in a disease space where patient preference is important.

Inhaled therapies lead the line in AstraZeneca's respiratory franchise, but the long-term goal is to complement them with biologics for more severe disease - and AZ has one of the broadest pipelines of respiratory biologics in the industry, with two biologics in Phase III testing and a pair in Phase II.