Pfizer Discontinues Insulin Inhaler, Earnings Fall

Pfizer Inc. reported that its third-quarter earnings fell 77%, largely reflecting charges associated with the company's decision to stop selling Exubera, an insulin drug that is delivered via inhaler.

The product was co-developed with drug-delivery specialist Nektar Therapeutics and launched in July 2006. Exubera was approved by the FDA in February 2006, but experienced a delayed launch due to manufacturing setbacks.

Nektar expressed regret over Pfizer's decision, asserting that it did not know Pfizer had decided to discontinue the product until it read the drug maker's press release early Thursday.

"Nektar has been very disappointed in Pfizer's performance in marketing Exubera. Pfizer has publicly acknowledged its organizational difficulties and resulting poor performance in launching Exubera. This has culminated in their announcement today," says Nektar's CEO Howard Robin in a statement. "We are evaluating all of our options with respect to Pfizer's Exubera announcement to protect the interests of Nektar. We continue to believe Exubera is an important advancement for diabetic patients."



New York-based Pfizer says Exubera had second-quarter 2007 worldwide sales of only $4 million, according to Dow Jones' MarketWatch. As opposed to traditional insulin, which is injected, Exubera was administered into the lungs through a large inhaler device, said by some users to be cumbersome and difficult to use. Despite high hopes from the diabetes community, the drug did not do well--in part due to concerns about the long-term impact it might have on the lungs.

The company started its DTC campaign for Exubera only in July. The campaign, from Kaplan Thaler Group, included a TV spot showing a diner in a restaurant who has just finished using the device, touting the product's ease in being used anytime, anywhere unlike traditional needle-derived insulin therapy. The spot featured the tagline: "Now I get it."

Pfizer made adjustments to its 2007 financial forecast to reflect both Exubera's discontinuation and stronger sales of its newer products. The company posted a profit of $761 million, or 11 cents a share, compared with $3.36 billion, or 46 cents, earned in the third quarter last year. The latest quarter included a $2.8 billion charge, or 31 cents a share, for the discontinuation of Exubera due to poor sales. Revenue for the September quarter was up 2% to $11.99 billion.

Next story loading loading..