Exubera “Bong” OK for Older Folks?

That is the question — despite the high-tech “Learning Center” with a live demonstrator and fancy large-screen video presentation of a guy happily inhaling his Exubera in a restaurant. Because for any PWD with an actual social life, Exubera inhaled insulin is looking like a bomb. As I told the reps at the ADA conference frankly, the science behind it IS revolutionary, and we PWDs are grateful for strides in alternative insulin delivery, of course! But the Exubera Inhaler Device really is as bad as it looks in pictures. Worse, because the bulky “white” plastic portions are not white at all, butExubera_user that hospital-grade biege that reminds you of walkers and bedpans. An aesthetic nightmare, in the age of cool gadgetry.

Talking it over with the reps, I am led to understand that the substantial size — especially the handful o’ activation lever — is actually a plus for the older Type 2 patients (who often resist going on insuin in injectable form, which IS certainly a plus). This may be very true, as I can just picture my grandma’s reaction to my tiny digitalized glucose meter, with its minute buttons and disconcerting beeps.

But grandmas go out to dinner, too. The funny thing was that the happy Exubera user in Pfizer’s video must live in a city as tolerant or as jaded as San Francisco or New York, because not one patron even glanced over as he cocked and sucked on his medicinal bong.


15 Responses

  1. Scott
    Scott June 16, 2006 at 1:16 pm | | Reply


    I told the reps at Pfizer when I was at the ADA Scientific Sessions on Saturday that what I saw as the biggest downside to Exubera wasn’t even the inhaler device itself, but how the insulin is measured.

    She told me they intended to move away from the defacto standard of international insulin units (where 1 unit = 1/22 milligram of the international standard of zinc-insulin crystals) to milligrams instead. The woman told me it was a “marketing decision” and I told her it was one I thought they might regret.

    I noted that this would make it exremely difficult for doctors and patients to effectively convert their dosages from injectable insulin to Exubera, and even worse, the fact that the smallest dosage measurement available equates to approximately 3 units is potentially dangerous, especially to the 2 million Americans who have type 1 diabetes and are sensitive to even small dosage changes.

    The product hasn’t even hit the market, and already, I think its looking like another Glucowatch.

  2. JasonJayhawk
    JasonJayhawk June 17, 2006 at 3:03 am | | Reply

    I agree with Scott. I’d be ditching my shares of stock right now! Can you see a person puffing on one of these monsters before chowing down on their Big Mac?

    And can you see a male willing to carry one of these things around? I can’t imagine all of the teasing that would occur with something as large as that thing.

    I think the non-diabetics show more excitement about it than diabetics. I can’t blame them, though, as everyone likes to be helpful.

  3. AmyT
    AmyT June 17, 2006 at 7:58 am | | Reply

    Hah! Jason, that’s a good one:

    “Is that Exubera in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?”

  4. Kim
    Kim June 27, 2006 at 10:37 am | | Reply

    Oh dear – that’s bigger than a spacer for respiratory meds! I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, either one becaue it’s funny! And trust me, the person wouldn’t get a second glance in SF!

  5. Brad
    Brad June 29, 2006 at 11:57 am | | Reply

    Insulin Bong! Ha! Too funny. Yeah, I am really skeptical of what I have read about this. I only see it as potentially useful for type II, and that’s if you have good lungs, and it doesn’t turn out to ruin them itself. I’ve had Type I for… um… lemeesee… 17 years, (19 at the time), and I’ve been on the pump since 2001. The pump has been such a boon to my control, that I would never consider messing with exubera, since it at best would be comprable to going back on individual injections.

    It took several doctors, diabetes educators, and my wife many years to get me over my “I don’t want something attached to me all the time” attitude, and on the pump. I have never regretted it for a minute. (well maybe when my pump got stolen along with my wallet while from a friends truck while we were surfing).

    Hey, is it 4:20 yet? I need a snack, pass my bon… umm insulin, yeah, that’s it.

  6. JasonJayhawk
    JasonJayhawk July 15, 2006 at 2:01 am | | Reply

    Just heard from a tiny bird (okay, my sister, a pharmacist) that the drug reps are touting this device as costing $10.00 — it won’t be free from doctors — “because patients would be more likely to lose it if they got it for free.”

    The drug rep that spoke to my sister was programmed to answer “I don’t know” for every question about the product that was not answered in the sales presentation, and showed no intention of finding and reporting back the answers. That kind of elusive behavior makes us wonder what Pfizer has up its sleeve.

    No hospital endocrinologists were present at the presentation. (?!)

  7. Lukas
    Lukas September 15, 2006 at 7:38 am | | Reply

    has anybody actually tried exubera? heard you have to inhale for 15 minutes. seems like fun sitting at the dinner table bonging your dose of insulin while dinner gets cold.

    can you report any experience?

    thanx lukas

  8. shellstar_rocks
    shellstar_rocks September 18, 2006 at 5:41 pm | | Reply

    like most of us PWD, i too, was excited to read the press about the recent FDA approval of Exubera… could this be a simple, socially acceptable solution to pulling out my Humalog pen at the dinner table?

    unfortunately, my endo at UCSF was less than enthused when i quizzed her about it last visit. “Not enough clinical data/clinical trials too short/potential to damage lungs/etc”… i was a bit miffed by her reaction and put it down to being resistant to changes in treatment.

    however, her real resistance was actually a fear of my resistance… without lengthy clinical trials, the possibility of us patients developing insulin resistence is unknown. and she’s not willing to take that risk.

    and neither am i.

  9. Princessjenny1977
    Princessjenny1977 September 29, 2006 at 9:48 pm | | Reply

    Actually, I am now on Exubera, the bong concept is funny, never really thought of it that way, but WOW…this stuff is SO easy and it is really working!

  10. bobbie be
    bobbie be October 10, 2006 at 2:07 pm | | Reply

    I’m a new user of Exubera and I can tell you it’s easy to use and my test readings shows it works just fine. My endo wouldn’t write a prescription, but couldn’t come up with any real reason why other than ‘it’s too new.’ So, I found an endo who would write a prescription. My cousin went through this same runaround when pumps first came out. He had to shop docs to get one! Same as ever!

  11. jt
    jt December 17, 2006 at 10:08 am | | Reply

    Beware of sales reps from other insulin companies “bashing” the device. They are also offering Dr. s biased “CME” programs and high “honorariums” to do talks where they casually dismiss the device. In the trials 8 out of 10 patients liked it better than injections.

  12. Sunil S Chiplunkar
    Sunil S Chiplunkar March 4, 2007 at 1:03 am | | Reply

    The times are achanging

    There was a time in the pharma industry (1960s – 1970s) where one had to meet a nucleus of doctors give them a great looking MR, good presenter – charmer visiting them regularly, give some freebies, gifts, seminars, luncheons; good ego massage and the prescriptions would start rolling. Patients too would not be too assertive or questioning with the doctors.

    Well times are achanging. Now its the internet era – the web 2.0 revolution is on. Business is at the speed of thought. Business plans get disrupted a lot faster. There is a remarkably high level of patient empowerment and societal consciousness on various issues. There are more assertive and informed stakeholders in the healthcare delivery process. Hence, diffusion of pharma innovations are a lot tougher. Perhaps if the Vioxx launch had happened in the 1960s it would not have had such an exit. They would have repositioned Vioxx as a short term use NSAID.


    Pfizer with high hopes, launched it like a bong
    Thought – it would be click like a gong
    But missing is the exuberance
    All it got is malevolence
    So will Exubera bomb?

  13. Avi Brand
    Avi Brand March 5, 2007 at 12:24 pm | | Reply

    Who made this insulin dispenser? Grafix?

  14. david
    david March 19, 2007 at 3:35 pm | | Reply

    Yes it is large but hell it sure beats injections by miles. It is so easy.

  15. Anon
    Anon September 15, 2010 at 11:31 am | | Reply

    Sorry I did not post to this area before now, (I see the last post was 3/2007) I know this Exubera Product because I was working on it. I see a lot of bashing on the product, but it looks like those posts were not done by people that had actually used the product. The ones that had, seemed to be very positive. This product was the first of it’s kind to hit the market (that I now of). With every new invention, a product goes through learning curves. The drug invironment can not be compared to other inventions because the laws make that market so different, which I won’t go into.
    My main point is I think the product was a good idea, but a company can only spend so much time and money on an “idea” before it has to market something to pay for it. The bash on Exubera seems to be on the size of the inhaler, vs what the process can actually achive for the patient. I would like to remind people of other items, take for example people with breathing problems (asthma). The machines that used to help them breath were huge, now they are small and can be placed in a person’s pocket. What about computers, they used to take up the entire basements of football stadiums, now they can fit on our desks or be carried around as laptops.
    I don’t think the bashers of this product gave it enough time and I am sure most of the bashers were companies compeating against Pfizer on this product. And the press looking for a story just jumped on the band wagon instead of doing some constructive research. But we all know what news sells best.
    Last thought, many of these people did not know that Pfizer had a phase 2 inhaler in the works that was the size of a women’s compact. What would the bashers have said about this, had Pfizer came out with it first?

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