Pfizer says inhaled insulin not popular with patients, doctors

October 22, 2007

Pfizer to stop selling Exubera

Pfizer is pulling the plug on Exubera. After 15 months on the market, the company announced that it will stop making and selling the inhaled insulin product. When it introduced Exubera in the U.S. last year, Pfizer expected the drug to revolutionize diabetes care and become a popular alternative to daily injections. But the product was never popular with doctors or patients, and sales were abysmal ($4 million for the second quarter of this year). Both factors ultimately led Pfizer to ditch the drug and write off $2.8 billion in Exubera-related costs. "Despite our best efforts, Exubera has failed to gain the acceptance of patients and physicians," Pfizer chairman and CEO Jeffrey Kindler said in a prepared statement. "We have, therefore, concluded that further investment in this product is unwarranted." The company promised to work with doctors over the next three months to "transition" patients to other treatment options. Despite speculation in recent months that Pfizer might discontinue sales of Exubera, the announcement caught executives of Nektar Therapeutics by surprise. "We first learned of Pfizer's decision to walk away from Exubera from their press release," said Howard W. Robin, president and CEO of Nektar, a biotech startup that invented the product. Robin said the company was disappointed in Pfizer's marketing of the product but added that Nektar is "evaluating all options." West Pharmaceutical Services, a manufacturer of the insulin inhaler device for Nektar, also expressed disappointment at Pfizer's announcement. "We were surprised and disappointed by Pfizer's announcement and are in the process of evaluating its impact on the company," said Donald E. Morel Jr., chairman and CEO of West Pharmaceutical Services. "We will continue to work with and support Nektar as they evaluate their options."

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