Chincoteague Wild Ponies

More Than One Trick in Obesity Innovation

In pharmaceuticals, a one-trick pony is doomed to oblivion. Some companies have a big hit with a successful drug and then struggle to follow up with more innovation. So patents expire and sales dwindle. The company with one-trick innovation fades away.

But with solid clinical trial results announced yesterday for two new drugs in obesity, it’s clear that Novo Nordisk will be more than a one-trick pony in obesity innovation.

The Obesity Innovation Challenge

The challenge in obesity is especially tough. Even a single big hit seemed out of reach a decade ago. Today, though, Novo Nordisk has a success on its hands with Saxenda (liraglutide). Even more important, it looks like the company has two strong contenders to follow it. The good news yesterday came in the form of promising results for a long-acting amylin analogue – AM833. One of the studies demonstrated that AM833 appears to be safe in combination with semaglutide – the other promising drug for obesity the company is developing.

Only a week ago, the company announced that all four of the pivotal studies for semaglutide in obesity had come in with good results. Those results were the last major milestone for semaglutide in obesity before submitting it to FDA later this year for approval. If all goes well with the FDA review, semaglutide for obesity could be on the market in 2021.

AM833 will take longer. The results yesterday were certainly encouraging. The company saw patients lose more than ten percent of initial body weight after six months with the drug as a single agent. In combination with semaglutide, they lost 17 percent.

However these are still early phase studies. We don’t yet have peer-reviewed publications to provide detailed insights. Many surprises can pop up in phase three. That’s the nature of drug development. We will watch this one closely.

Innovation Sparking Innovation

Also in phase one research, Novo Nordisk has four other anti-obesity medicines. At such an early stage, some or all of them might fail, but it is a robust research portfolio that builds upon success in the field. Perhaps more important, though, is the innovation that success by one company sparks from others.

Novartis, Boehringer Ingelheim, Pfizer, and others are investing in research for new anti-obesity medicines. Rhythm Pharmaceuticals hopes to have an FDA approval for setmelanotide later this year for treating specific genetic forms of childhood obesity. Gelesis is introducing a new product, Plenity, for milder forms of obesity and overweight this year. It’s actually classified as a device rather than a drug, though it comes in a capsule.

What this all adds up to is flourishing innovation and the potential for more options to benefit people living with obesity. It gives us good reason for optimism about the future of obesity care.

Click here for more on the results with AM833 and here for more on the pivotal results with semaglutide. For a details of the phase three studies of semaglutide, click here.

Chincoteague Wild Ponies, photograph © Laura Pontiggia / flickr

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June 19, 2020