UK backs Pfizer's insulin inhaler

Thu, 22 Jun 2006
Patients will be given the go-ahead to use insulin that is inhaled rather than injected if it can be proven that they have a needle phobia.

The cost-effective watchdog, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) had previously stated in April that Pfizer’s inhaled insulin product called Exubera was not worth the money .

They are now however saying that if it can be established that a patient has a needle phobia, that patient will qualify for Exubera.

The decision by NICE is not acceptable to Pfizer as patients will have to be assessed by a psychiatrist or psychologist to diagnose if they have needle phobia or not. This in effect means that to qualify for Exubera the patient will have to show mental illness.

Exubera, is an insulin which come is powder form, was given a marketing licence in Europe and the USA in January for the treatment of patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

NICE assesses if it is cost effective for the NHS to provide certain treatments. However they feel it does not have any more of an effect than an injection but it is more expensive. They estimate that to treat one patient with Exubera would cost £1,102 a year.

This isn’t the first time the watchdog has come under fire from pharmaceutical companies and patient groups, they also limited access to Alzheimer’s drugs on the NHS.

Pfizer say that Exubera is the only alternative to insulin injections that has been developed successfully since the 1920s. Clinicians can start insulin treatment earlier which will reduce complications and therefore future costs.
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