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Arena Adds Volume

Friday, 18 Sep 2009 | 1:33 PM ET

There! I resisted writing a blog headline that attempts some tired play on words with the Arena Pharmaceuticals' clinical trial acronyms BLOSSOM and BLOOM.

As I write this, shares of Arena Pharmaceuticals are the second most actively traded on the Nasdaq. Only E*TRADE is experiencing heavier volume.

What's more is that after a 40 percent spike in post-market trading yesterday simply on the announcement that its diet drug data would be coming out today, then a selloff in early trading today after the results were released, the stock is now rallying midway through the session.

The positive reaction is somewhat surprising when you look at some of the analyst commentary and headlines on the wires like: "Arena weight-loss trial disappoints investors, " "Arena obesity drug falls short against other meds," "Arena Reports Obesity Drug Success; Data Disappoint" and "Arena Drug Aids Weight Loss, a Little."

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JPMorgan analyst Cory Kasimov calls the efficacy data "underwhelming." Lazard Capital Market's Terrence Flynn says, "In our opinion, the data appear to be on border of criteria recommended by the FDA for weight-loss drugs."

But as you'll see in this "First on CNBC" interview with Arena's co-founder and CEO Jack Lief, the company is pleased and confident about the data.

The Weight Loss Arena
Arena Pharmaceuticals says a big study shows its diet drug is safe and effective, but apparently not effective enough for investors, with Arena Pharmaceuticals CEO Jack Lief and CNBC's Mike Huckman.

Some might say it's poetic, but this is an all-California race to get the next prescription diet drug to market. Arena and Orexigen are in San Diego. Vivus is in the bay area. But "Diabetic Investor" newsletter editor David Kliff says unlike other drug categories, there isn't going to be a first-to-market advantage for the weightloss pill players. "Obesity drugs have a checkered history and it's likely the FDA will take their time during the approval process," Kliff writes in a note to subscribers. "Still, this is one huge opportunity and like the diabetes market competition will be fierce. This could get very interesting, stay tuned."

Is the bloom off Arena's rose? Or could its drug lorcaserin still blossom into a success? Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com and follow me on Twitter at mhuckman

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