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Pfizer Discontinues Inhaled Insulin

Exubera, the first inhalable insulin, will be discontinued due to disappointing sales, according to a November 2007 announcement by Pfizer, who produced the drug. The FDA approved Exubera in January 2005 to great fanfare. Some called Exubera the next big thing in diabetes, and speculated that inhalable insulin heralded the end of needle sticks for diabetics.

But the product never caught on the way Pfizer expected. Many doctors and diabetics expressed concerns about accurate dosing and possible long-term lung damage. In addition, patients who wanted to use inhalable insulin first had to undergo a test of lung function on a spirometer, an instrument many primary care doctors do not have in their offices.

Pharmaceutical giants Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk are still at work developing second-generation inhaled insulins, but those are still years away from store shelves. So if you’re hoping for a new inhaled insulin to replace Exubera, well, don’t hold your breath.