Inhaled insulin was doomed from the start

This recent news blip about a new inhaled insulin failing caught my attention, months after the big flop of Exubera, Pfizer’s inhaled insulin product. It was meant as an alternative delivery method of insulin for individuals with diabetes mellitus who were resistant to the use of injections. Interesting idea, in theory, but in practice is a mess.

I had the delightful opportunity (read sarcasm) to discuss this product with some Pfizer pharmaceutical reps who of course were pushing it as the latest, greatest insulin product. Not to pat myself on the back, but I told them it wouldn’t catch on like they were hoping . . . for a few reasons.

  • The apparatus was apparently difficult to use. It was a clumsy-looking handheld canister, into which packets of inhalable insulin were dispersed, and then the contents of that chamber were inhaled. Dosing was very limited due to the sizes of the insulin packets, which would then require multiple inhalations to receive one “dose”. How’s that any easier?!?
  • My biggest grudge with it was that insulin is not meant to be dispensed into the lungs and thus posed grave danger. Insulin is a tumor growth factor [note: “tumor” not necessarily being a malignant process]. An example of this function in action is the deposit of tissue beneath the skin where frequent injections are performed. Why would anyone put that product in their lungs, with potential for decreased lung function and inappropriate tissue growth? * Part of my duty to my patients is to protect them from these marketing blunders. Last thing I want is a surge in lung cancer cases.

I hope my intellectual assaults on the Exubera reps played a little role in hurrying Exubera off the market. There are a few other new drugs I’ve recently heard about that should also provide me good fodder to toy with the pharmaceutical reps.

* “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.” – Edward Abbey


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