Pfizer and Sanofi Join Merck in Abandoning Obesity Drugs
Posted by Colin Rose on November 9, 2008
By Jim Edwards
November 5th, 2008 @ 6:25 pm
For those of you hoping that America’s obesity crisis could be solved with a pill, think again. Pfizer announced late Wednesday that it is scrapping its anti-fat drug, the as-yet unnamed “CP-945,598,” for essentially political reasons. Sanofi-Aventis today also announced that it was ending its trials on Acomplia/Zimulti, an obesity pill that was approved and then yanked in Europe. And Merck a couple of weeks ago pulled its fat pill taranabant, from its pipeline.
Pfizer’s statement contained an interesting mystery. It said there was nothing wrong with the compound, but they were booting it from the pipeline because they couldn’t be bothered to navigate the bureaucracy required to bring it to market:
Pfizer believes that the CP-945,598 compound has the potential to be a safe and effective treatment for weight management. However, the Company has decided to discontinue the development program based on changing regulatory perspectives on the risk/benefit profile of the CB1 class and likely new regulatory requirements for approval.
“While confident in the safety of the compound, we believe that this is the appropriate decision based on all available information regarding this class of agents, as well as recent discussions with regulatory authorities,” said Martin Mackay, president, Pfizer Global Research and Development.
Really? The company has an effective drug but won’t attempt to sell it — clearly we’re lacking some important details.
Sanofi was more forthright. Acomplia was pulled from shelves because Euro regulators thought the pill was too dangerous for sale; and the same authorities asked Sanofi to stop its ongoing trials for the same reason. Merck stopped its version because it had similar side effects seen in Sanofi’s — weird mood changes and depression.
Interestingly, all three drugs acted on cannabinoid receptors. So how likely is it that Merck and Sanofi’s drugs were riddled with side effects while Pfizer’s was just fine? Hmmm.
None of this news is surprising to BNET readers. Back in July we noted that “Drug companies have been down this route many times before, and always failed to find success. A safe and effective weight-loss pill is like Big Pharma’s El Dorado — a lost city of gold that no one can find.”
It’s worth repeating the explanation for why these pills tend to fail, provided by Derek Lowe of In the Pipeline:
Evolutionary pressures have been too strong — our metabolisms try to make absolutely sure that we have plenty of reserves against the lean times, because over most of the history of our species, it’s been nothing but lean times….
So many of the weight loss drug attempts have been in the area of appetite suppression — stop the problem before it develops. But you run into those multiple pathways there, too — any animals whose feeding behaviors can be easily shut down are long dead. We’re the descendants of the opposite population: the ones that scrambled for food no matter what.