The Biglin Brothers Racing

Amgen Bringing More Competition into Obesity

Move over, Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly. Amgen wants a piece of the action in obesity treatment. With some obvious pride of accomplishment, Amgen unveiled results from a phase 1 study of its dual action conjugate on Saturday. This new experimental drug, AMG 133, is a molecule that combines peptides to activate GLP-1 receptors (as semaglutide does) with an antibody that blocks GIPR. The results are tantalizing. But this news signals something even more important than the mere possibility of this particular drug. It highlights the reality of a number of pharmaceutical innovators bringing more competition into obesity treatment in a major way.

This matters because it answers a key question we posed just ten days ago: Can we afford optimism about treating obesity?

This news affirms our answer. The economics of competitive innovation can make highly effective obesity treatment both widely available and affordable. We saw it happen with advances in therapies for cardiovascular disease. We see reasons now to believe it will happen in obesity.

Durable, Impressive Responses in an Early Stage Study

The first thing to know is that these results, presented at the WCIRDC conference, come from a very early stage study in humans. It was designed only to show that this drug will be safe enough for further testing. It enrolled only 110 patients with and provides data on only 12 weeks of treatment.

However, there are at least three reasons these early results are encouraging. First of all, the safety profile was acceptable, with the major adverse events being nausea and vomiting and resolving within 48 hours.  Second is the observation that, after just 12 weeks of treatment, these patients lost 14.5 percent of their starting weight. By comparison, persons in the placebo arm gained one percent of additional weight.

Third is the observation that five months after the last dose, patients had maintained much of the weight loss from earlier receiving doses of the drug spaced four weeks apart. What this suggests is that frequent dosing might not be necessary with this drug in order to maintain an effect.

Now obviously, we have a lot to learn and this drug might go down in flames as others have before. But so far, this is very encouraging news.

Competition in a Market That Needs It

Right now, the market for obesity care is in an awkward phase.

We have more effective options available than ever before. But treatment is still quite costly and many payers are dragging their feet on opening up access to care. Even so, demand for treatment is growing because the unmet need is great. A great many people have their lives and their health disrupted because of leaving this chronic disease untreated.

On top of that, the marketplace for healthcare in the U.S. is not terribly efficient. So high prices are slow to come down. For this reason, the prospect of growing competition brings us encouragement. With competition and smart health policies, access to care for obesity can grow while innovation makes it more affordable.

We can do this.

Click here, here, and here for more on these early results with AMG 133. For more on high U.S. drug prices, click here.

The Biglin Brothers Racing, painting by Thomas Eakins / WikiArt

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December 5, 2022

One Response to “Amgen Bringing More Competition into Obesity”

  1. December 05, 2022 at 9:43 am, Allen Browne said:

    And away we go! Up, up and away!

    And now the access issues and bias and stigma issues become evermore important.

    Education – education – education!!!

    Power to the people!!