New Push to Market Diabetic Drug Exubera - 8 News NOW

Paula Francis, Anchor

New Push to Market Diabetic Drug Exubera

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UPDATE: According to an Exubera spokesperson, both the Medicare Part B and Medicare Advantage-Part D (MA-PD) plans cover spirometry (breathing tests) for Exubera screening and monitoring, as long as they are coded properly.

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You may have noticed an aggressive new ad campaign for a diabetes drug called Exubera. It's inhalant insulin. It's actually been available for a year, so why the big push now? Eye on Health asked Las Vegas endocrinologist, Fred Toffel.

At first, there was a lot of excitement about Exubera because the inhalant insulin seems like a great alternative to needles. Endocrinologist Fred Toffel says Exubera is effective, but a number of drawbacks have kept it from reaching high-volume sales.

He says that may be because it's complicated to use or because of its possible side effects on the lungs.

"Exubera requires some specialized training on how to teach a patient to use it properly," shared Toffel. "Additionally, since the medication is inhaled, one has to do pulmonary function tests ahead of time. And there are a lot of patients who do not qualify for the use of the medication."

In fact, there are a lot of diabetics who are unable to use Exubera, including those who are smokers or have a chronic lung condition. It's also not available for children.

For patients who can't afford the required lung tests, it can be a financial burden.

"Medicare, for instance, which is a big audience for people with diabetes, as we know 20% of people over 65 have diabetes, so that's a major audience, will not pay for the breathing tests for this drug, at least here in Nevada," said Toffel.

Dr. Toffel says there are two more inhalant insulins coming out soon that may be more user friendly.

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