March 19 (Reuters) - Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc said on Monday a higher dose of its experimental drug succeeded in improving symptoms associated with ulcerative colitis, a chronic bowel disease, in a mid-stage study.
The U.S.-based company said it planned to move the drug, etrasimod, to late-stage trials based on the data.
However, the company said a lower dose did not significantly improve the disease symptoms on a scale measuring severity that included stool frequency, rectal bleeding and findings on endoscopy.
The company is banking on etrasimod, along with its pulmonary arterial hypertension drug, after shifting its focus away from its weight-loss treatment due to underwhelming sales.
Arena sold the global commercialization rights to the weight-loss drug, Belviq, to Japanese drugmaker Eisai Co Ltd early last year.
Significantly more patients in etrasimod's higher dosage, 2 mg group, achieved endoscopic improvement, compared with the placebo, the company said.
Ulcerative colitis is the most common type of inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation and ulcers in the large intestine lining.
"Despite recent advances in treatment options, there remains a significant unmet need for new oral therapies for ulcerative colitis," Arena's Chief Medical Officer Preston Klassen said.
Big drugmakers are targeting the ulcerative colitis market. An advisory committee to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration earlier this month recommended approval of Pfizer's Xeljanz to treat the disease, while Celgene's ozanimod is in late-stage trials.
Arena's pulmonary arterial hypertension drug, ralinepag, is expected to begin late-stage trials.
The company is also testing a treatment for pain associated with Crohn's disease, which also causes inflammation but not restricted to just the large intestine. (Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)