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Pharmaceutical companies set to make a significant profit from anti-obesity drugs

Pharmaceutical companies set to make a significant profit from anti-obesity drugs


By 2012, the anti-obesity drugs market will be worth an estimated $2.5 billion globally, compared to $526 million today. However, new drugs will not be the answer to the growing obesity problem. Datamonitor's Jasjeet Mohain argues that increasing education and awareness of the importance of good diet and exercise will remain crucial to combating obesity...
Last Updated: 27-Aug-2010

Datamonitor estimates that there are 127 million obese people in the , , , , , and the and over half of them reside in the . Despite increasing health awareness campaigns and attempts to slow down the startling increase in obesity rates, Datamonitor predicts that the prevalence of obesity will increase to 168 million in the alone by 2012.

Health complications and comorbidities associated with obesity are a huge drain on national health services around the world. In 2003, obesity cost the US $75 million, half of which came out of public taxes.

Race for fat-busting drugs is building up speed

Current pharmacological therapies have shown little efficacy. They typically produce a 5-10% reduction in body weight and many patients complain of side effects such as incontinence and rectal oily leakage.

Due to the high unmet need, obesity represents a lucrative market for R&D. However, future therapies must produce more weight loss, have a better side-effect profile and cost less than currently approved therapies if they are to perform well.

Datamonitor has identified 22 key compounds currently under development. Of these compounds, only two are in late-stage development, Acomplia and Axokine, and the most common type of therapies in the pipeline are beta-3 adrenergic agonists. Beta-3 adrenergic agonists are under investigation as a strategy for treating obesity by stimulating metabolism and peripheral burning of fat.

The main contenders

One of the most promising drugs in the pharmaceutical pipeline is Sanofi-Aventis' Acomplia (rimonabant), which is expected to be launched in 2006. The drug has been successful in clinical trials for weight loss and appears to have a good side effect profile. It may also be indicated for smoking cessation and so could treat two problems with one pill. Acomplia (rimonabant) is a selective CB1 endocannabinoid receptor antagonist.

CB1 receptors have been found to be necessary to induce food intake after a short period of food deprivation. By blocking these receptors there is a powerful reduction of food intake and increased energy expenditure. Datamonitor forecasts that sales of Acomplia will reach $829 million by 2012.

The second most promising drug in the pipeline is ATL-962, which is being developed by UK-based company Alizyme and is currently undergoing Phase II trials. ATL-962 has a similar action to Roche's Xenical, the current global leader, in that it is a 'lipase inhibitor' and reduces the absorption of fat.

Winners and losers

However, in comparison to Xenical it appears to have fewer of the side effects such as oily spotting, fecal incontinence and flatus with discharge. Alongside this its lower production costs should mean that it would also be cheaper than Xenical. It is expected that ATL-962 will be launched by 2008 and will reach sales of $945 million by 2012. Datamonitor forecasts that Acomplia and ALT-962 will have a combined market share of almost 70% in 2012.

Roche's Xenical and Abbott's Meridia are expected to take a significant hit. Datamonitor forecasts that sales will drop by 63% and 54% respectively. Both are associated with unpleasant side effects, poor efficacy and high costs. This expected drop in sales reflects the side effects associated with the drugs, which deter many patients from taking these products, as well as the gap between patients' expectations of the drug and what the drug can deliver.

As such, even though Xenical has shown effective weight control in a clinical trial setting, the drug is unlikely to be as effective outside of trials if the patient does not receive the same level of support.

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