News Thursday June 26, 2014

Pharmaceutical companies trying to tap huge obesity market with combo drugs

Obesity problem is on a rise and more and more people are using medication to aid in weight loss, including the likes of Reductil as well as other prescription only slimming pills. Nevertheless, obesity figures are expected to rise. These results in introduction of many new weight loss drugs including combination drugs.

According to estimates of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 72 million people in the US are obese and number of overweight people is also staggeringly high. At the global level, about 400 million adults are obese and 1.6 billion are overweight according to projections of the World Health Organization. The WHO also predicts that these figures will increase by 2015 to up to 700 million and 2.3 billion..

Demand for anti-obesity drugs

These figures indicate that there is huge demand for anti-obesity drugs, with the the number of people who take Xenical steadily on the rise. JPMorgan Securities Inc. and reported recently that overall the US market for weight-loss drugs and diet products was more than $50 billion in 2006. Despite rising obesity, prescription drugs accounted for less than one percent of the total drug market that equals mere $200 million in 2007.

Xenical orlistat is among the few prescription drugs for obesity treatment that is available in the US. The others include the generic drug phentermine, and branded Meridia.

Xenical works in the digestive system by inhibiting gastric and pancreatic lipases to reduce the absorption of fats. In its clinical trial, Xenical showed that its average placebo-adjusted weight loss was 2.9 percent and the dropout rate was 30 percent.

Another drug, Acomplia rimonabant that is manufactured by a major pharmaceutical company, Sanofi-Aventis is quite popular in European markets. However, it has not yet been approved for use in the United States.

Acomplia helps in weight loss by blocking cannabinoid-1 (CB1) receptors in the brain, liver and gastrointestinal tract. This action regulates glucose and fat absorption and suppresses appetite. Its trials showed a placebo-adjusted weight loss of 4.7 percent with 40 percent dropout rate.

Drugs in the offing

There are many weight loss drugs in the pipeline seeking approval or in their last development stages. Many drugs have same mechanism like that of already approved drugs, which is now used by people. Some have combination approach while some have single agents.

According to Cory Kasimov at JPMorgan "physical consultants believe single agents will have limited benefit because they can only target one pathway effectively, which is likely insufficient to produce long-term, sustained weight loss." The doctors also think that the combination approach will become standard of care.

According to Kasimov, JPMorgan analyst, the only drug that produced significant results of weight loss, Fen-Phen, was a combination drug and it demonstrated 15 percent weight loss and generated 20 million prescriptions annually before it was recalled for safety concerns.

Merck and Pfizer, two major pharmaceutical companies are conducting Phase III trials with CB1 blockers MK-0364 that is named taranabant and CP-945598, respectively. Another drug maker, Arena Pharmaceuticals is in Phase III with lorcaserin that agonizes the 5-HT2c serotonin receptor.

Alizyme Therapeutics Ltd. is also in the process of seeking approval and finding a partner for Phase III trials of Cetilistat that is a gastrointestinal lipase inhibitor. Other combination drugs for obesity treatment are in their last development stages and they are Contrave and Qnexa.

According to Kasimov's projections, the market for prescription obesity drugs will grow from $200 million in 2007 to $1.5 billion in 2012 and more than $4.6 billion in 2017.

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