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Pfizer withdraws from inhaled insulin production

Phamaceutical company Pfizer have announced that they will no longer invest in Exubera®  (Inhaled insulin) and will return the worldwide rights to Nektar Therapeutics who own the inhaled insulin technology.  This means that after 90 days from today Pfizer will no longer have any rights to market or sell Exubera.

The pharmaceutical company said they took the decision because globally Exubera had not gained sufficient acceptance from healthcare professionals and the uptake had not met their expectations and as a result continuing to market the product was not financially sustainable. Pfizer said that the decision was not based on any safety issues.

In a statement Pfizer said “We will work with physicians to transition Exubera patients to other treatment options in the next three months.  We remain committed to investing significant resources in the development of new and innovative medicines to manage diabetes, including monitoring inhalation technologies and other innovative delivery systems for insulin and other medicines”

Simon O’Neill, Director of Care, Information, and Advocacy Service at Diabetes UK said: “We understand that because of commercial pressure this decision was necessary.

"Nevertheless, Exubera does provide an alternative treatment to insulin injections for some people with diabetes and we therefore hope this product will remain available in the future.“

Healthcare professionals or people with diabetes who are currently using Exubera can contact Pfizer for more information on 01304 616161.

Background information

Currently the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends that inhaled insulin may be used as a treatment option for people who show evidence of poor blood glucose control despite other treatment options and are unable to inject insulin due to:

  • an injection phobia confirmed by a diabetes specialist or mental health professional
  • severe and persistent problems with injection sites.

NICE also states that if there is an improvement in HbA1c judged to be significant enough to reduce the risk of complications after six months, then the patient should be allowed to continue. If this isn’t the case, then Exubera should be discontinued.

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