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Pfizer to go it alone with Exubera

Published on 16/01/06 at 02:08pm


Pfizer has paid $1.3 billion to buy out its marketing partner's stake in new inhaled diabetes drug Exubera.

The US company now gains complete global marketing rights and will not have to share profits with co-developers Sanofi-Aventis. Pfizer also acquires the insulin production facilities in Frankfurt, previously jointly owned by the companies.

Exubera is still awaiting final approval in the US and Europe but is expected to hit the market in 2006 and will become the first ever inhaled formulation of insulin to treat diabetes.

The fast-acting dry powder formulation of human insulin has had a difficult route to market because of  safety and efficacy doubts about its cutting edge technology, but analysts predict peak sales in excess of $1 billion.

Pfizer currently has very little presence in the diabetes market, and the launch of Exubera will extend its reach to yet another growing therapy area.

The world's biggest pharmaceutical company is expected to have a difficult 2006, after patent expiries and slowing sales of blockbusters in 2005 forced it to withdrawal earnings forecasts for the next two years.

Complete ownership of Exubera will help Pfizer maximise sales in the US and globally, and help alleviate fears about slowing growth across its portfolio.

Pfizer's chief executive Hank McKinnell commented: "As diabetes reaches epidemic levels worldwide, new treatment options such as Exubera - the first inhalable, non-injectable insulin medicine - have the potential to improve the lives of millions of people with diabetes.

"We sought the Sanofi-Aventis rights to Exubera based on the strong addition it would represent to our portfolio of innovative medicines. The acquisition of these rights also underscores our ability to invest in new product opportunities that will drive our future growth," he said.

A handful of rival inhaled insulin products are currently in development. Lilly and Alkermes' product is in phase II while Novo Nordisk's liquid formulation project with Aradigm is at a similar stage of development.

Exubera is a fast-acting insulin formulation, meaning it will not be a comprehensive solution to diabetes. Type I diabetes patients wont be able to throw away their needles, and will have to use the inhaled formulation alongside long or intermediate acting insulin.

Some type II patients will be able to use the inhaled technology in conjunction with oral treatments, but patients and doctors will require extensive education about the new treatment option.

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