Thursday, October 18, 2007

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TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP)--Pfizer Inc. (PFE) has halted production of the inhaled diabetes drug at its western Indiana plant following the company's decision to drop the insulin drug due to disappointing sales, a Pfizer spokesman said Thursday.

The New York-based company has placed about 600 of the 750 workers at its Vigo County plant - Pfizer's sole Exubera production center - on paid leave as it weighs the plant's future, said company spokesman Rick Chambers.

For now, he said the plant's 150 other workers will continue making two antibiotics.

"We've not made a decision on the future of the plant. We're going to take some time to review our options on it," Chambers said.

Pfizer, the world's largest pharmaceutical company, had invested more than $ 300 million in the past five years on its Vigo County plant, south of Terre Haute. Over the past year it had hired about 400 people, boosting the plant's work force to more than 750.

Pfizer said Thursday that its third-quarter profit plunged due to a $2.8 billion charge to end its investment in Exubera, and lower sales of blockbuster cholesterol drug Lipitor.

The company earned $761 million, or 11 cents per share, down sharply from profit of $3.36 billion, or 46 cents per share, during the same period a year ago. Excluding one-time charges, Pfizer said it earned 58 cents per share in the latest period.

Revenue fell 2% to $11.99 billion from $12.28 billion a year earlier.

Jeff Kindler, Pfizer's chairman and chief executive, said the company initially had "high expectations" for Exubera, but the drug proved not to be popular with diabetes patients.

"Despite our best efforts, Exubera has failed to gain the acceptance of patients and physicians. We have therefore concluded that further investment in this product is unwarranted," he said.

Pfizer received federal approval in January 2006 to market Exubera, the first new way of delivering insulin since the discovery of the hormone in the 1920s. Pfizer jointly developed the drug and dispenser with Sanofi-Aventis SA ( 12057.FR) and Nektar Therapeutics (NKTR).

Exubera was the first inhalable version of insulin, which offered millions of adult diabetics an alternative to some of the injections they now endure.

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