(Bloomberg) -- Roche Holding AG is considering selling Esbriet, a lung disease drug that’s seen sales plummet amid competition from cheaper generics.

The Swiss pharmaceuticals giant is in the early stages of evaluating a disposal after getting inbound interest from potential suitors, people with knowledge of the matter said, asking not to be identified discussing confidential information. 

Esbriet is an oral anti-fibrotic medicine used to treat a chronic lung disease known as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Sales of the drug fell more than 70% to 202 million Swiss francs ($229 million) in 2023. 

“As part of the normal process to review our portfolio of established products, we are currently evaluating potential options for Esbriet,” a spokesperson for Roche said in response to Bloomberg queries. “This process will take several months until a final decision is taken.”

Large pharmaceuticals firms are keen to dispose of non-core assets as they seek to prune portfolios and focus on growth areas. Roche’s rival Novartis AG agreed in June to sell part of its portfolio of eye medicines to Bausch + Lomb Corp. in a deal worth as much as $2.5 billion. Buyout firms, including Advent International and Blackstone Inc., are circling the consumer health division of French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi ahead of a potential separation of the business, Bloomberg News reported in February. 

Esbriet is available in about 40 countries, according to information on Roche’s website. Roche Chief Executive Officer Thomas Schinecker has clinched several deals to replenish the company’s pipeline in recent months, expanding its footprint beyond the cancer therapies that long anchored its business. Still, Roche has forecast a sluggish recovery in sales and earnings this year as it emerges from a difficult 2023 and a string of research setbacks. 

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