Exubera-Millions being wasted

Exubera-Millions being wasted

“I think Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) will wish they had never gotten into this. I doubt they’ll regain their investment. There is no advantage to Exubera, and there may be a safety risk. I see it as my job to talk people out of (using) it.” Strong comments indeed, stronger still when you consider the source Dr. John Buse, president-elect of the American Diabetes Association. It should also be noted that Dr. Buse participated in Exubera’s clinical trials.

Diabetic Investor couldn’t agree more with Dr. Buse as his comments mirror what we have been saying for years, Exubera will be a commercial failure. Yet Pfizer seems determined to waste millions of dollars rather than admit Exubera is no more than a niche product with very limited appeal. The company has already spent millions developing Exubera, they have added to their cost by hiring 900 part-time diabetes educators and is getting set to initiate a direct-to-consumer advertising campaign for Exubera.

With several of their drugs soon facing generic competition Pfizer is in desperate need of new blockbuster products. The fact of the matter is no matter how much they spend on Exubera, it’s destine to be no more than a niche product. Why they have decided to throw millions into Exubera is one of the stranger decisions made by a company that was once a powerhouse.

Making matters even worse for Pfizer is by aggressively pushing Exubera they are alienating their own sales force. Exubera does not follow the traditional sales cycle, a sales rep cannot simply load up the physician with samples and literature. They most also train the physician on how to operate and maintain the delivery device. Additionally, many of these same physicians require education on insulin therapy. Needless to say this creates a lengthy sales process and with their time already limited few physicians want to waste their time for a product they really don’t see as all that spectacular.

This process has been made even more difficult with the introduction of Januvia. It is a well known fact that physicians, primary care physicians in particular, prefer oral medications for their type 2 patient population Exubera’s target market. It also a fact that physicians view insulin therapy as the therapy of last resort no matter how the insulin is delivered.

Yet Pfizer is holding onto the belief that because Exubera is inhaled and not injected this one fact will overcome all the other obstacles to insulin therapy. The fact of the matter is Pfizer seriously miscalculated the difficulties of marketing Exubera. Worse is they appear unwilling to ignore the reality of the situation and are willing to waste millions of dollars in the process. When it comes to how Pfizer has handled Exubera Diabetic Investor is reminded of something J.C. Hare once said; “He must be a thorough fool, who can learn nothing from his own folly.”

David Kliff
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