Ouch, Pfizer is getting hit hard on what appears to be the impending commercial failure of Exubera, the first-ever market-ready inhalable insulin. On Monday, BrandWeek (the marketing industry's premiere weekly publication) called it the "Billion-Dollar Bong":
"Last year, Pfizer paid Sanofi-Aventis $1.4 billion for Exubera, a new inhaled insulin product for diabetics that Pfizer forecast would produce $2 billion in sales every year.
"What Pfizer got for its cash was a device that looks a lot like a marijuana bong—and a brand that analysts, doctors, drug sales reps and some patients believe is a struggle to sell because it is so inconvenient to use."
Hate to say I told you so, but the story actually quotes me (!) noting that the clunky inhaler device "is an aesthetic nightmare in an age of cool gadgetry."
And I am so not the only one who thinks so. Apparently Pfizer's own sales reps have been bitching about Exubera on CafÃ© Pharma, the pharma industry's gossip online board. BrandWeek quotes: "I've only been able to sell one Exubera script that I know... So much hype before the product was launched. This thing is a bust." And also: "Dumb, dumb, dumb... Look at the size of the bong who the fuck wants to carry something so damn big that it doesn't even fit in a pocket[?]"
Youch! But true, as in, "Are you happy to see me, or is that just your Exubera?"
Anyway, as evidenced here at DiabetesMine.com, not everyone hates Exubera. User Jen Haws from Iowa, who I've interviewed here a few times, writes, "I still think that I am the only person in the world on it and it's so great!" Judging by the sales stats, Jen may be right: she may be just about the only person on it. Of 5,000 diabetes doctors targetted, only one-fifth have managed to persuade a single patient to stick with Exubera, BrandWeek reports.
Now launching a new direct-to-consumers TV ad campaign, Pfizer still seems to believe it can reach its $2 billion sales target.
Our own David Kliff of Diabetic Investor has this to say: "I think Pfizer is on drugs." If Pfizer does reach its goal, "I'm going to run down Madison Avenue naked," Kliff told BrandWeek. Hah! Now I'm kind of rooting for the Big Insulin Bong just to have a little fun seeing David make good on his dare ;)