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Novo Nordisk Braves the Obesity Market

Everyone thinks of Novo Nordisk as a diabetes company (and that they are), but they’re willing to use their expertise in related areas. And if you know a lot about insulin and blood sugar regulation, you may also end up knowing a fair amount about appetite and satiety signaling in the gut. The company has been developing a new dosage form of their Victoza (liraglutide) peptide drug for just that purpose, and it seems to be working in the clinic.
Liraglutide is a long-acting GLP-1 analog, and decreased appetite is already noted with compounds of this type. Novo is out with more Phase III data, and they look pretty strong. An FDA advisory panel meeting last month went very well, and they seem to be on target to head into the obesity market.
And it’ll be interesting to watch what happens then. As an injectable, liraglutide isn’t going to be something that people just take casually, but who knows, that might prompt better patient compliance and a bit more dedication to the other diet and exercise factors in weight loss, since you’re already going to that much trouble. Obesity therapies have had a rough time in the market over the last few years, with Vivus, Orixigen, and Arena all struggling with their individual drugs. (All three of those stocks have fanatic followings, I might add, and I feel sure to hear from some of those folks just for having mentioned the companies). Will Novo’s drug (renamed Saxenda for this market) have a better fate? (Some of that will depend, in the long run, on whether there are any problems with higher liraglutide doses, but so far, things look OK). And if it does, will it knock out one or more of the smaller players?

12 comments on “Novo Nordisk Braves the Obesity Market”

  1. Achmed, the Dead Terrorist says:

    Having stock in all three of those companies, Vivus, Orixigen, and Arena, I have only one thing to say to you: “SILENCE!! I Keeeeeel Youuuuu!!!

  2. dearieme says:

    “Saxenda” is perhaps an unfortunate name, implying a sort of anti-Viagra.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Dearieme
    One might make good on the trade name by a marketing campaign for Saxenda directed towards obese women, since for the ladies significant others, it becomes a moot point.

  4. PorkPieHat says:

    Obesity has to be one of the diseases of living in the Western World lifestyle. Is it really a public health issue in the rest of the world like it is in the US? I wonder if western medicine is really the solution to it if it is man-made as such?
    Oh, and Achmed, the Dead Terrorist, you are hilarious…you keeeel me!

  5. Philip says:

    As a fanatic follower of Arena, I welcome Novo Nordisk to the battle to overcome physician, patient and insurance resistance to treating obesity after diet and exercise fail.
    As Albert Einstein said: “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
    A lot of physicians seem to be insane when it comes to treating obesity. They keep trying diet and exercise over and over and over…
    So Derek, is that what you expected from an Areniac?

  6. matt says:

    Just an anecdote, but a family member using Victoza did yield better control of blood sugar for a little while, then was denied reimbursement until other treatment possibilities were tried (they had been tried, but the documentation wasn’t available). The “appetite control” manifested as a constant, low-grade nausea–not sure that’s a real winner, market-wise. Maybe some are determined enough to always be wanting to throw up. But the real killer was the appearance of migraines, at first infrequently, then progressing to multiple times per week. These stopped when Victoza was discontinued and other treatments were pursued.

  7. Dolph says:

    @6: Thank you for this comment. This was my first suspicion and I have to say I’m somewhat shocked that Victoza is investigated for this indication. Disaster waiting to happen!
    @5 Yes, trying the same thing over and over again is not exactly intelligent. You mean like trying again and again to come up with a drug against obesity? Really, you can’t overcome lifestyle perversion with a drug just as you can’t treat stupidity with one.

  8. Philip says:

    @7 Dolph, my comment was somewhat in jest, but I found your comment offensive and out of character for this blog.
    First is it really stupid to make a safe version of FenPhen? FenPhen was a very effective weight loss drug, with one major problem. The fenfluramine (well its metabolite norfenfluramine) part of FenPhen has a high affinity for 5-HT2B receptors and that caused heart valve problems. So there was a nice template for an effective weight loss drug. Find a drug that if very selective for the 5-HT2C receptor, combine it with phentermine and off you go. Not an easy thing to do as some of the chemists on this blog can attest to.
    Second, “lifestyle perversion”? So over a third of Americans are obese and another third are overweight. And this is just a lifestyle perversion? No, it is a treatable disease. That is according to the AMA, not just this unqualified computer geek. Want to know more (I doubt it), look at the September 3, 2014 JAMA.
    Is Arena a good investment? Who knows. It is obvious that I think it is, but I understand the debate. That debate is what makes a market. Obesity a lifestyle perversion, not a chance. More like an addiction, that if a person goes cold turkey on, they die.

  9. In Vivo Veritas says:

    @Philip (8). I agree on the improved FenPhen idea, but lorcaserin is not that drug. While more selective than fenfluramine, it’s still pretty non-selective. They presented 2 sets of selectivity data to the FDA, one looked OK, one looked not-so-OK. The not-so-OK data was supported i the clinical trials. Their high dose was not tolerated, at has enough A activity to cause frank hallucinations, hence the DEA schedule. Hence the low dose. Hence the low response rate. Hence the poor sales.

  10. Philip says:

    @9 In Vivo Veritas, That is a great response (no sarcasm). Accurate, no name calling and well reasoned.
    I disagree about the low response rate. 47% lost significant weight in the phase 3 trials. Hence the FDA approval. From personal experience (I know N of 1 and all that) I can tell you that it works.
    OK, I think 5% weight loss is significant, but others disagree. Therefor the low sales and stock price. I see sales growth of about 30% quarter over quarter as promising, and that is why I own ARNA stock. I assume you see low sales after over a year on the market and do not expect enough improvement to convene you that owning ARNA stock is a good idea.

  11. hn says:

    @4: Yes, obesity is on the rise everywhere. As developing countries get richer, poor people get fatter. Obesity is a problem in China, Mexico, Middle East, etc.

  12. Curtis says:

    It is on the rise and it is up to the parents to prevent their children from not getting enough physical activity.

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