Orexigen And Its Obesity Bets


After Medivation, I moved onto the Orexigen presentation. It's a company I profiled at when it had data on one of its fat-fighting drugs at last year's diabetes conference, so I wanted to check up on its progress. It was SRO at the main and breakout sessions, but they took place in smaller rooms than MDVN's.

OREX is one of those companies that tries to turn trash into treasure. In other words, it takes old, generic drugs and mixes them together to hopefully do new things. Orexigen actually has two diet drugs in mid- to late-stage development. The one that's furthest along is Contrave. It's a combination of a drug for alcoholism and smoking cessation. Orexigen is aiming the drug at mild to moderately obese women.

In one study patients lost as much as 11 percent of their body weight in as many months. But as many as 30 percent of patients got nauseous.

OREX may have Phase 3 test results on Contrave late this year or early next. Graham Cooper, the CFO, strongly hinted at the breakout that the data could be released at the huge JPMorgan Healthcare Conference in January. OREX plans to file for FDA approval of the drug in late 2009.

Cooper also said the company will likely want to find a corporate partner with a big sales force for Contrave once the first Phase 3 results come out. "The time to do that (collaboration discussions) is once we open the envelope (on the test results) and see who shows up (potential interested partners)," Cooper said.

The second diet pill is called Empatic. It's a combo of the same stop-smoking drug and an epilepsy treatment. The company thinks it's probably best suited for very obese older men and women. In one test patients shed 15 percent of their weight over 11 months.

Orexigen expects to move Empatic into a big, late-stage clinical trial late next year.

Amylinis up next. This is its first investment conference presentation since the latest Byetta safety news broke. The CEO, Dan Bradbury, is not here, though.

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