Another inhaled insulin casualty

Novo Nordisk of Bagsvaerd, Denmark, has cancelled development of its phase 3 inhaled insulin program, a move influenced by Pfizer's recent dumping of Exubera (Nat. Biotechnol. 25, 1331–1332, 2007). The Danish group acknowledged that there was no point spending on development to be the third-place product in a niche market. Their device, which uses Aradigm's AERx liquid aerosol system, offers no benefit over other pen devices, including Novo's own FlexPen. At best, Novo's product would have been third after MannKind's and Lilly's inhaled insulins. As with Pfizer's inhaler, Novo's AERx was deemed too bulky. The decision forces Novo to write off about $300 million, and leaves just Eli Lilly in Indianapolis and MannKind from Valencia, California, in the inhaled insulin space. “Both are very serious players,” says Bill Kridel, a principal with Ferghana Partners Group. Lilly's AIR insulin, now in phase 3, is produced with Cambridge, Massachusetts biotech Alkermes; MannKind will need a partner to develop its Technosphere Insulin System. The inhaled powder insulin arena may have lost two main contenders, but the remaining companies still have to compete with other trends in the diabetes market. There are around 60 programs pursuing the 'Holy Grail' of an oral diabetes drug, and advanced injector devices will mean that insulin can be administered pain and needle-free. SA


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Aldridge, S. Another inhaled insulin casualty. Nat Biotechnol 26, 255 (2008).

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