Contrave Goes Back to Orexigen

Contrave, a combination of bupropion and naltrexone, will be going back to Orexigen, which is the small biotech company that developed it as a treatment for obesity. Takeda, which launched the drug less than two years ago under a licensing agreement with Orexigen, announced Tuesday that it had decided to give up the marketing rights for Contrave in the U.S. Announcing the news, Orexigen said:

The acquisition of Contrave by Orexigen is possible as a result of Takeda’s realignment of resources behind its recently announced strategic therapeutic areas of focus, and Orexigen’s desire to take on more direct responsibility for the Company’s flagship product.

At the same time, Orexigen announced that it has entered into an agreement with Valeant Pharmaceuticals to launch the same drug under the brand name Mysimba in 19 Central and Eastern European countries.

Though Contrave is indeed the most prescribed of the four new anti-obesity medications, it has had a few bumps along the way. One came from Orexigen’s mishandling of interim data from a big cardiovascular outcomes trial last year. By disclosing data it should not have, Orexigen both angered the FDA and invalidated the study. As a result, a new study is required that will cost Orexigen $200 million. The mistake also strained the relationship between Orexigen and Takeda.

The other complication was a slower uptake than anticipated in the marketplace. Though Contrave is more prescribed than any of its competitors, it’s not selling at a rate that makes it financially rewarding for Takeda.

So after all these bumps, it’s not entirely surprising to see Takeda walk away. Add in Takeda’s prior decision to stop investing in metabolic diseases and the Contrave decision is even less surprising.

We hope that Orexigen can find firmer footing for Contrave. People living with obesity need more, not fewer options for obesity care.

Click here to read the more from Orexigen and here to read more from GEN News. Click here for more on Orexigen’s agreement with Valeant.

Abandoned, photograph © Teves Costa / flickr

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March 16, 2016

6 Responses to “Contrave Goes Back to Orexigen”

  1. March 16, 2016 at 9:27 am, Joan Ifland said:

    I just think a clean, non-addictive food plan with lots of support is the way to go with chronic overeating.

    • March 16, 2016 at 10:21 am, Ted said:

      Thanks, Joan.

  2. March 16, 2016 at 12:19 pm, Stephen Phillips said:

    Like most antiobesity medications Orexigen is still lacking long-term sustained weight loss efficacy outcomes …
    The question still remains….is the medication better for the patient or for the pharmaceutical company?

    Stephen Phillips
    Director of Public Policy
    American Association of Bariatric Counselors

    • March 16, 2016 at 4:45 pm, Ted said:

      Thanks, Stephen. While we have some four and five year data on outcomes with diet, exercise, and pharmacotherapy, it’s clearly not as robust as we would like to have. The simple fact is that cures for obesity are rare, though good long-term management is. We have some good tools for obesity care. We need to use all of them and to get some better ones.

  3. March 16, 2016 at 12:27 pm, Allen Browne said:

    It’s sad and scarey to see the fate of possible tools for people with obesity have nothing to with whether the drug might help the patients.

    • March 16, 2016 at 4:46 pm, Ted said:

      Very true, Allen. Big commercial and clinical success for obesity treatment still lies in the future.