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Will Pfizer's Insulin Inhaler Be Another Drug Debacle?

Last week, I warned you about four new diabetes drugs in the pipeline projected to make more than $1 billion apiece. One of those drugs, Pfizer's Exubera, may not be the blockbuster many business analysts expected, according to an awesome Business Week report.

In fact, some diabetes patients who participated in a clinical trial reported lung problems after using the inhalable insulin drug. Even worse, Pfizer has recommends doctors exclude diabetes patients who can't perform a simple test to measure lung functioning. Moreover, patients who do "qualify" for the drug are required to have periodic lung exams. And that's not all:

  • The inhaler is about the size of a can of tennis balls when it's unfolded.
  • Exubera costs about a third more ($140 per month) than injected insulin.
  • The drug comes in two dosage sizes, making it tough for patients to judge how much they may need during their day.

The real "need" for Exubera, however, has nothing to do better health or treating the underlying problems associated with diabetes. It's all about the money folks, considering Pfizer's coffers are a bit less full these days, with Zocor going generic and its many statin variants soon to take on cash cow Lipitor.

Business Week July 16, 2006

Popular Science November 2005

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