Approved by the U.S. Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) in June, Sanofi has on Tuesday launched the only inhalable insulin product for type 1 and type 2 diabetics in the US. The medication was developed by Mannkind Corp, and now takes the place of Exubera which was manufactured by Pfizer but withdrawn from the market when patients complained of the risks of developing lung infections.
Afrezza, as the new inhalable insulin is called, helps diabetics control blood-sugar and also improves quality of life for patients suffering from diabetes. Afrezza will now have to compete with Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk who markets injectable insulin, but considering that inhalable products are easier to use anytime, anywhere, it is believed that Afrezza will take the lead over other injectable insulin in the market because it is not the only inhalable insulin in the US market, taking the position of Pfizer’s Exubera.
Afrezza comes as a whistle-sized inhaler. Its developer, Mannkind was issued an upfront payment of $150 million and promised a potential further milestone of up to $775 million with 35% of all future profits. Afrezza retails for $7.54 for a daily dose of 12 units while Apidra, its injectable equivalent in the stable of Sanofi prices for $3.14.
The manufacturers warn that Afrezza should not be used in patients with asthma, or those suffering from certain complications, however. It is also not recommended for smokers or recent ex-smokers.
Market analysts project that Afrezza should garner $182 million sales per year, even though Sanofi’s diabetes division makes about $7 billion sales annually and around 30% of group profits.
Inhalation promises to be faster-acting and much more convenient than injections, but an inhaled product has failed in the past and there are concerns about the potential risks associated with breathing powdered-insulin. Orally delivered insulin is difficult to develop because the protein gets broken down in the stomach, but last year Danish group Novo Nordisk completed a Phase I trial of an oral version.