Orexigen Drug Shows Potential as “Two-Fer” Against Obesity and Diabetes

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with primary diabetes treatments like Amylin’s exenatide and Merck’s sitagliptin (Januvia), Kim says.

Still, like with any drug, there are side effects that need to be taken into account. About 9 to 10 percent of patients who got the Orexigen drug dropped out of the study because of nausea, Kim says, which is about double the rate seen in other studies of the treatment. The company believes that occurred because many of the patients entering the obesity-and-diabetes study, known as COR-Diabetes, were also taking metformin, a common treatment. Patients in the study also reported vomiting, constipation, and dizziness.

As part of this study, Orexigen captured a whole slew of health measurements, such as waist circumference, cholesterol levels, and blood triglycerides. Kim noted that obese patients who also have diabetes are considered tougher to treat than patients who are just trying to lose weight.

But any drug that helps, especially a daily pill like the one from Orexigen, has potential to treat a lot of people and make a lot of money. An estimated two-thirds of Americans are considered overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Another huge group of people—24 million in the U.S.—are estimated to have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). Without some major change to people’s lifestyles, the number of people with diabetes is expected to almost double to 44 million over the coming 25 years, according to the ADA. So even if Orexigen can only capture a small sliver of this market, the potential is huge.

“Hopefully we can get on the radar screen of practicing diabetes specialists, so they are thinking of weight loss as a strategy, rather than just traditional glucose lowering agents that often cause weight gain,” Kim says.

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