Two of the newest diabetes treatments suffered major set-backs this week. Endocrinologists across the U.S. received a notice today that Exubera, the inhaled form of insulin, would soon become unavailable. This is because Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant which has sole rights for marketing Exubera has decided to end its role in selling this drug. This will effectively end the availability of Exubera and patients taking this medication will have to be switched to something else.
The reason for Pfizer’s abandonment of Exubera appears to be slow sales due to the lack of interest by consumers in using inhaled insulin. Physicians were also slow to recommend this treatment due to the difficulties in teaching patients how to use the inhaler device, and restrictions on using inhaled insulin in patients with minor lung disorders.
The second drug running into trouble this week is Byetta (highlighted in an article at metabolism.com when it first became available). Thirty cases of pancreatitis, a potentially fatal inflammation of the pancreas, have been reported in Byetta users. Of these, 7 cases seem to be linked to higher doses of Byetta while the others had other risk factors for pancreatitis. Most patients improved when Byetta use was discontinued. The FDA is requiring that a warning regarding pancreatitis be added to Byetta’s labelling. At this time it is difficult to say what restrictions will have to be placed on Byetta because of this new development, or how it will effect Byetta sales.
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