Exubera Fiasco: What Went Wrong?

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

Case Details:


Case Code : MKTG199 For delivery in electronic format: Rs. 300;
For delivery through courier (within India): Rs. 300 + Rs. 25 for Shipping & Handling Charges


Case Length : 18 Pages
Period : 2006-2008
Pub Date : 2008
Teaching Note : Not Available
Organization : Pfizer, Inc.
Industry : Pharmaceutical
Countries : Europe/USA


In late 2007, the world's leading pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, Inc. (Pfizer), announced that it was withdrawing its inhaled insulin brand Exubera. Exubera was a powdered form of recombinant human insulin (insulin human [rDNA origin]) delivered through an inhaler directly into the patients'lungs where it would be absorbed.

Touted as a major innovation in the treatment of diabetes when it was launched in 2006, the brand was expected to become a blockbuster in the coming years. However with very few patients taking it and its sales were abysmally low compared to initial forecasts the company decided the pull it off its product portfolio.

The case discusses the strategy followed by Pfizer for Exubera and the events leading up to its withdrawal. Some analysts felt that Exubera's withdrawal coming as it did within such a short time of its introduction, had dented Pfizer's reputation as the company was well known for its marketing prowess. However, others were of the view that it made sense for Pfizer to withdraw the drug and so cut its losses as it had become clear to the company that Exubera was a 'dog' in its product portfolio.


Analyze the strategy adopted by Pfizer of Exubera and the reasons for the product not being readily accepted by the target population.

Explore marketing strategies that can be adopted at various stages of the product life cycle (question mark, star, cash cow, dog).

In particular, explore the strategies for 'dog' products.

Analyze the implications of the Exubera debacle for Pfizer and the industry.


  Page No.
Pfizer's Exubera Strategy Questioned 1
Background Note 3
The Quest for the Inhaled Alternative 4
Pfizer Bets on Exubera 5
Marketing Exubera 6
Criticism 8
Exubera is Dropped 10
The Fallout of the Debacle 10
Outlook 12
Exhibits 13


Marketing, Product portfolio, Product lifecycle management, Dog, Unique selling proposition, Diabetes drug market, Inhaled insulin, Pharmaceutical, Exubera, Pfizer

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