Exubera: The road to hell is paved with good intentions
I’ve been waiting to write up the Exubera story for the next edition of Building Biotechnology, and the story just keeps getting better.
Exubera is was Pfizer’s innovative answer to the diabetes drug market. The market is so saturated with competitive products, that the only way to capture significant market share is to innovate. Either produce a better drug — difficult, unless you can think of something better than resolving an insulin deficiency by administering insulin! — or improve on current delivery methods. Answering the second challenge, Pfizer developed an inhalable version of insulin. This drug promised to eliminate the need for injections or implantable dosage systems.
Early responses were positive (Washington Post and NPR), but in what is being painted as a marketing catastrophe, it soon became evident that the delivery system was far more cumbersome than the asthma inhalers most people are accustomed to, much more cumbersome, and a lot harder to use than injections.
With a mere $12mm in annual sales, Pfizer decided to pull Exubera, taking a $2.8b hit for assets, inventory, etc. This recall also impacts partner Nectar therapeutics, as it calls their technology and future revenues into question. They rapidly issued a press release, chastising Pfizer for weak marketing efforts.