Pfizer to launch DTC ads behind Exubera

Pfizer is planning to launch television and consumer print ads behind its inhaled insulin Exubera, which has been largely shunned by doctors since its approval in January 2006. The ads, scheduled to start appearing in the second half of 2007, are designed to overcome the product’s higher cost and the inconveniences of the device used to administer the drug, analysts said in published reports. The ads will target newly diagnosed diabetics who may not want to inject themselves daily, Ian Read, president of Pfizer’s worldwide pharmaceutical operations told Bloomberg News. Patients who develop diabetes later in life may put off using insulin because of needle phobia, Read said. “The heart of the issue in diabetes therapy is the delay in getting patients to begin taking insulin, a delay that often lasts more than eight years.” Read said. Exubera has been largely spurned by diabetes specialists, generating only about $5 million in sales for 2006, or one-tenth as much as much as some analysts forecast. Some 2,300 Pfizer sales reps have been promoting Exubera to more than 5,000 doctors. Analysts say they are skeptical that consumer ads will produce better results. “We are not aware of any pharmaceutical product that has ever become a blockbuster that was not endorsed by specialists,” Merrill Lynch analyst David Risinger said in a Bloomberg News report. Risinger last month lowered his initial 2008 sales projection to $175 million from $300 million.