Sunday, April 8, 2007

Exubera: More ammo to pull the plug?

Pharmalyst recently read another post on Pharmalot informing us that analyst David Risinger of Merrill now thinks that Exubera will generate sales of $250 million in 2012 (revised downward from $630 million). Pharmalyst's own estimates under the skeptical scenario were about $284 million. Looks like most of wall street is now gravitating towards a strongly negative outlook on this product given the reported NRx numbers (even after Pfizer had pushed the product to endocrinologists).

Numbers like $250 million in 2012 would indeed make this product a spectacular bust. Pfizer brass has to make a decision on pulling the plug. Pharmalyst believes that Pfizer's current thinking is revealed by two comments (made by SMC and Superman..who look like PR people or employees of Pfizer) in response to a WSJ health blog article regarding Exubera. Their main defense of the product (and Pharmalysts comments in italics are as follows):
  • Needle phobia is a big deal. May be so. However even with Exubera people need to use needles to measure sugar levels. Various types of pens etc have made injecting insulin easier. Users still need to inject long acting insulin on occasion.
  • Presence of competitors will drive market growth (capturing 50% of insulin market). More likely that Exubera's performance will deter competitor entry. If anyone does, it will be with a better inhaler device and will capture share from Exubera.
  • Only insulin is effective at A1C control. May be so. However, not an inhaled one with potential for lung damage and lawsuits. Also some of those "oral agents" seem to have other benefits like weight loss.

Pfizer made a good effort in enhancing the science of inhaled medicines & Pharmalyst commends its scientists for trying. Perhaps Pfizer can benefit from its learnings for future products. However it is time for Pfizer brass to seriously think about whether they need to throw in more good money after bad or whether it is time to cut their losses. Surely Pfizer must have other projects with better odds of success, that are in need for capital and resources.

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