Diabetes Self-Management Blog

On Thursday, October 18, pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced that it will stop selling its inhaled insulin product, Exubera. Pfizer said that it will help doctors switch people who currently use Exubera to alternative treatments over the next three months.

Exubera was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in January 2006. Upon approval, Pfizer and market analysts predicted that Exubera would be a blockbuster drug since it was the first inhaled option for people who needed to take insulin. However, Exubera’s high price and bulky inhaler, as well as concerns about its effects on lung function, led to much lower sales than had been expected. (For more details about these concerns, see the blog entry “Inhaled Insulin Passes Test for Safety” from earlier this year.) Also, because Exubera was not shown to control blood glucose levels any better than already-existing treatments, insurance companies were reluctant to cover it. In the end, Exubera captured less than 1% of the insulin market.

In a statement on the Exubera product Web site (www.exubera.com), Pfizer emphasizes that Exubera is a safe and effective medicine and is not being discontinued because of any concerns in those areas. Rather, it says, “Pfizer has made this decision because too few patients are taking Exubera.”

Because of its swift action time, Exubera was considered appropriate for “bolus” insulin doses, or doses taken to cover carbohydrate eaten in meals and snacks. Other insulin options with similar action times are the rapid-acting insulin analogs insulin lispro (Humalog), insulin aspart (NovoLog), and insulin glulisine (Apidra) and short-acting Regular insulin. Delivery options for these insulin products include syringes, insulin pens, jet injectors, and insulin pumps. Meanwhile, other pharmaceutical companies, including Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk, are currently developing new inhaled insulin products.

Were you an Exubera user? If so, what was your experience with the product, and what is your reaction to this news? Where do you think things went wrong for Exubera? Share your thoughts in a comment below.

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Comments
  1. I can understand why their sales were so low. The initial cost is $160.00 for the inhaler body and first cartidge with $90.00 for each replacement cartridge.

    Posted by tldell |
  2. I am certainly very dissapointed to learn that this product is to be discontinues. A a health care professional and a diabetic, I found that Exubera provided very effective control. Morning blood sugars have never been better since I switched.

    I will await with great anticipation the possible entry of Lilly or Nordisk.

    Posted by Michael Treacy RN |
  3. Six months ago, my nurse practitioner started me on Exubera. For someone who doesn’t like needles, it was a godsend! I only had to take one shot a day of Lantus, and before meals, I used my Exubera inhaler. Yes, people stared at me when I pulled out the odd-looking contraption (one of my friends said it looked like a bong), but they would certainly stare more if I pulled up my shirt, grabbed a hunk of flab and jabbed a needle into myself.

    I am so disappointed that Exubera is being taken off the market. It will mean more shots per day. Perhaps that is something that experienced diabetics don’t think twice about, but for us novices, Exubera was nothing less than amazing! Shame on Pfizer for letting us down!

    Posted by maestra |
  4. I could not be more disqppointed that Exubera will no longer be available. It has been the best product I’ve used in the ten years since learning that I am a type 2 diabetic. I just hope that some other company will find this product cost effective to continue.

    Posted by DAJ Feb 21, 02:41 PM

    Posted by DAJ315 |
  5. please how much this product exubera inhalation powder ?

    Posted by hosni |
  6. Hi Hosni,

    According to , Exubera has been discontinued and is unavailable on the market as of January 16, 2008. We’ll make sure to keep you posted if any other similar products are approved in the United States.

    Posted by Tara Dairman, Web Editor |
  7. i used exubera ever since it came out. my insurance covered it at a $50 co-pay ($20 more than regular injection insulin).
    it worked great for me as far as controlling my blood sugar.
    the biggest problem i had with it was it’s huge size. i couldn’t fit it in my pocket. i kept it in my briefcase and when going out to eat, either i had to bring my briefcase or carry it with the risk of forgetting it laying on the table when i left.
    hopfully another company will release a better insulin inhaler in the near future.

    Posted by Darrin |
  8. because i have a tremor in my hands my insulin shots keep me bruised and sore. Exubera was a godsend. i am so disappointed that Exubera is off the market. Being a diabetic is hard enough and everything that helps us is greatly appreciated. my insurance paid for it so they must have believed in it. sorry….

    Posted by linda nash |
  9. i m new comer dibetes i heard about insulin inhaler plz tell me the name of this brand which is avialable in market

    Posted by asim |
  10. does anyone know of any inhaled insulin or another form of insulin that’s not injected. I am care giver for my spouse which can not stand anymore injections. She was on inhaled Exubera when it was on the market which worked well but cannot tolerate anymore injection. PLEASE HELP Thanks Terry

    Posted by terry |
  11. I became a type one diabetic at age 6! I was not overweight; my pancreas just didn’t work! I was made to feel like I was doing something wrong all my life by medical personel. I was threatened of complications over and over. No sympathy was given for my disease! I was told to just toughen up and take my shots or else! A wonderful blessing came to me though called Exubera! I used Exubera from Dec.’06 to May’08. It was great for me! I’ve been insulin dependant for 30 yrs. now, and was so thankful to finally be off shots! I heard about inhaled insulin through a cardiologist visit though and had to practically beg my endocrinologist for it! My sister who is an accountant did the research for me also, which is how I came to know it was available! The medical system is sad and very disappointing! Any complaints about inhaled insulin are silly in comparison to a lifetime of injections! Shame, shame that it is no longer available!

    Posted by Kristin Ullrich |
  12. If any of you receive notification of updates to this post, I hope you have heard of Afreeza. Just approved by the FDA. Pretty much the same thing as Exubera, but with a more convenient inhalation device. Not advised for people with asthma or COPD. Not sure of what the price will be yet. Hopefully more affordable than Exubera, because that was why it was discontinued. Wishing you health and happiness!

    Posted by Amanda J. |

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