The withdrawal of two “blockbuster” diet drugs that act against pleasure centres linked to the marijuana-induced “munchies” has shocked the markets.
France’s Sanofi-Aventis announced that it is halting all research on Acomplia, followed hours later by rival Pfizer axing work on an experimental drug in the same class.
Acomplia has been hailed as an anti-fat ‘Holy Grail’ that would help people lose weight, quit smoking and stop abusing alcohol, marijuana and cocaine.
But early promise has not materialised, it did not win approval, and psychiatric side effects emerged in various studies of the drug as a diet treatment.
The decisions to abandon it now leave Pfizer, the world’s top drugmaker by sales, and Paris-based Sanofi, ranked fourth, without their high-profile potential money-spinners.
Analyst Steve Brozak, of WBB Securities, said: “This will significantly affect the perception of their future revenues,” although the companies could overcome that with replacement drugs.
Since obesity is seen as possibly the world’s biggest public-health problem, it will also disappoint patients and doctors, as well as investors.
Sanofi-Aventis said in a brief statement it was stopping ongoing human testing of Acomplia, known chemically as rimonabant, for all uses, “in light of recent demands by certain national health authorities”.
Copyright Press Association 2008