Fat Chance for Drug Makers

August 4th, 2010 | Sources: BurrillReport

The decades-long hunt for an obesity pill has been sullied by market withdrawals and clinical failures. The largely fruitless quest was recently dubbed the “$11 billion market that never was” by Datamonitor, a research firm that predicted drug sales in the space would reach just $560 million in 2018.

Overweight teenager“Current approaches just aren’t good enough to capitalize on this opportunity,” the firm reported.

Nevertheless, the hunt continues. Last month for example, Arena Pharmaceuticals announced a $1.3 billion marketing and supply agreement which calls for the company to sell its experimental obesity-fighter lorcaserin to Eisai for a purchase price beginning at 31% of Eisai’s annual net sales, with escalator clauses reaching as high as 36.5% if sales exceed $750 million. Arena can also receive up to $1.2 billion in purchase price adjustment payments, according to BurrillReport.

Lorcaserin, the most advanced drug in Arena’s pipeline, is a so-called selective serotonin 2C receptor agonist. The serotonin 2C receptor is located in the hypothalamus, an area of the brain known to help control appetite. According to Arena, stimulation of the serotonin 2C receptor is associated with a sensation of satiety.

Also last month, Orexigen reported that a late-stage trial of its experimental obesity drug Contrave had achieved promising results. Contrave includes the antidepressant Wellbutrin and an opioid blocker that is currently used to treat drug and alcohol addiction.

The Contrave trial involved patients with type 2 diabetes. After 56 weeks of treatment, obese patients with diabetes lost more weight and achieved better glycemic control than those receiving a placebo. In addition, more than twice as many patients taking Contrave lost 5% or more of their body weight.

Arena has a date with the FDA this October. Orexigen’s big day comes next January.


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