The UK-based drug delivery device manufacturer said that following the slow take-up of Exubera by diabetes patients, Nektar Therapeutics and Pfizer have revised their short term forecasts for the inhalation device, which will result in a reduction in production. Exubera is a powdered insulin product that is inhaled into the lungs before a meal, using a proprietary inhalation device made under contract on a 50:50 split by Bespak along with The Tech Group, which is part of West Pharmaceuticals Services.
Bespak has been developing the inhaler’s manufacturing process since July 1999 and the company’s Milton Keynes facility is almost exclusively geared towards the high volume production of the Exubera device. However, the company does not disclose the amount of devices that have been made so far.
Bespak said it is embarking on a consultation process with the 160 staff involved in the production of the Exubera inhaler and expects to reduce the team involved in the Exubera contract.
Jonhathan Glenn, Bespak’s financial director, stated that, "The procedure will take three months after which we will make a significant number of redundancies.
But Glenn said his company was confident about the future of Exubera, especially with the huge forthcoming advertising campaign Pfizer is launching in the US, and which is expected to kick off in September.
"Pfizer and Bespak expect that the direct consumer advertising operation will have a great impact on sales and will hopefully lead to a significant ramp-up in production," said Glenn.
"We know that once patients use Exubera, they don’t give it up so the key issue is to increase significantly the up-take."
On the other hand, Exubera could represent an expensive flop for Pfizer if it does not achieve the blockbuster status the industry had hoped for.
Exubera was expected by its makers as well as many analysts, to be a revolution for the treatment of Type II diabetes and to be an important step for patients who are postponing insulin therapy to avoid injections, and thus a major blockbuster.
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