Pfizer launched its first TV campaign for Exubera this past week in an attempt to breathe a little life into the stalled inhaled insulin brand. And with just $4 million in quarterly sales after 18 months on the market, Exubera needs all the help it can get.
But will the “Now I Get It” campaign be enough to put Exubera on a faster track? As we pointed out in an IN VIVO article in May, Exubera has some pretty major marketing hurdles: 1) it’s not clear that inhaled insulin is any more effective than the injectable stuff; and 2) there’s that pesky long-term pulmonary safety signal.
But perhaps the biggest hurdle is the size of the inhalation device. As big as a can of tennis balls, it’s not exactly something you’d like to whip out at a restaurant. Pfizer tries to dispel that notion in the commercial: a man is shown holding and closing the device while having a meal with a friend—but in such a way as to disguise the actual size of the thing.
The size problem isn’t new: as reported by The RPM Report, during FDA’s 2005 advisory committee review of Exubera, one panelist noted that despite the increase in “metrosexuals carrying purses,” the inconvenience of carrying the device may actually prevent patients from complying with their treatment regimen. Embarrassment also may be a factor: as the Pharma Marketing Blog points out, the inhaler looks like a large bong.
It’s also interesting to note that the commercial doesn’t ever discuss the convenience factor of inhaled insulin—in fact, the word “needle” is never uttered. But maybe that’s because for the majority of patients, inhaled insulin can’t replace injections. Instead, Pfizer sells Exubera as a treatment to help control blood sugar levels.
Inhaled insulin should be an easier sell, and with a number of other inhaled insulin products coming down the pike (all with smaller inhalation devices), Pfizer is running out of time. It’s a slick commercial, but it’s doubtful that the introduction of DTC ads for Exubera will help Pfizer overcome device envy.
But hey, don’t take our word for it: judge for yourself. To see a clip of the broadcast ad, click here, and tell us what you think.