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Hopes rise for experimental anti-obesity drug

Expectations rose for Sanofi-Aventis’s big new drug Acomplia as the French firm revealed it would present two-year, rather than one-year, data on the anti-obesity medicine next week.
/ Source: Reuters

Expectations rose for Sanofi-Aventis’ big new drug hope Acomplia on Friday as the French firm revealed it would present two-year, rather than one-year, data on the anti-obesity medicine next week.

Acomplia, or rimonabant, is tipped by analysts as a future multibillion-dollar-a-year seller, since it can help people both lose weight and quit smoking.

Until now, however, it had been uncertain how comprehensive the next set of clinical results would be. The decision to publish two-year figures was taken by industry analysts as a sign the product was progressing well in tests.

Results of a North American study into the experimental drug will be presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association on Nov. 9 in New Orleans.

“They’ve raced and managed to get the two-year data out and it is being presented at a late-breaking session, so the implication from that is it is positive,” said Marc Booty, an analyst with Commerzbank.

10 percent weight loss
Results of two earlier studies have shown that around 40 percent of patients who stay on Acomplia for a year lose more than 10 percent of their body weight. The drug also boosts levels of “good” HDL cholesterol in the blood.

Sanofi-Aventis, the world’s third largest drug maker, aims to file Acomplia for approval with regulators early next year, implying a launch in 2006.

Acomplia offers a novel approach to tackling two factors -- obesity and smoking -- that are responsible for many heart attacks and strokes. But uncertainties remain about side effects, particularly nausea.

Its novel mode of action targets the same biological “switch” in the brain that makes people hungry when they smoke cannabis. The drug binds to and blocks a so-called cannabinoid receptor protein found on the surface of brain cells.

Health-care officials in North America and Europe have recently expressed increased determination to tackle a growing obesity epidemic, which could help Acomplia’s path to market, some analysts believe.