Inhaled Insulin

November 19, 2007
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The New York Times has an article about Alfred E. Mann, a billionaire who has a lot of money to spend, but he’s spending it on something I think is worthwhile. Pfizer created an inhalable insulin drug called Exubura and put it on the market earlier this year. On October 18th of this year, they decided to pull it off the market, because in their words from their website:

“This decision was not based on any safety problems with Exubera. Exubera is a safe an effective medicine and the feedback we had from Exubera patients has been very ositivy. However, Pfizer has made this decision because too few patients are taking Exubera and, since there are other medicines available that lower blood sugar, Pfizer will stop providing Exubera.”

So this is unfortunate, Pfizer looking to make money as blatantly as this. However, Mr. Mann is investing in his own pharamaceutical company in the hope that they can design a better inhaled insulin drug, they’re calling it Technosphere Insulin. Unfortunately, that sounds like something out of the 80’s.

Type I diabetes (formerly called juvenile-onset), the diabetes in which insulin needs to be injected two or more times over the course of a day, needs higher amounts of insulin, due to the pancreas shutting down. Pfizer’s Exubera worked pretty well with Type II diabetes (formerly called advanced-age onset), which is where the pancreas still makes an adequate amount of insulin butthe cells of the body have developed a resistance to it. Perhaps Technosphere Insulin can do a better job. Mann’s company, MannKind, claims that it works more quickly than previous products.

One of my friends is worried that her father is going to develop complications from his Type II diabetes because he fails to stay compliant with his treatment, and with good reason. Non-compliance is one of the biggest current problems with diabetes, with potential complications leading to coma, blindness, amputations and death. Many of the patients hate the management aspect of the disease: the daily pricks on the finger, the worrying about what you’ll eat, any perceived stigma about being diabetic. Unfortunately, the risk of developing complications seems to be tied to income and educational level. More has to be done to educate the general public about it, and I’ll be going on several rants about it