As I follow the race to bring a new drug for obesity to market, I have to wonder- is being first necessarily best? Biopharmaceutical company Orexigen doesn’t seem to think so. Yesterday the firm laid all its cards on FDA’s table as it filed for approval of its experimental diet medication, Contrave. Assuming FDA accepts the application, that means we should be hearing whether the agency gives Contrave the thumbs up by about January 31, 2011.
That’s a few months later than Vivus’s Qnexa and Arena Pharmaceuticals’ lorcaserin, two other drug candidates for obesity.
Contrave, like Qnexa, is a combination of two drugs already on the market, bupropion and naltrexone. As we explained in 2009, Orexigen’s developed a sustained-release formulation of those active ingredients. This is thought to alleviate the nausea that cropped up in clinical trials, but also could come in handy in terms of real-world prescriptions if the drug is approved. People might want to save money by taking the generic versions of Contrave’s two components but it isn’t clear how that would work for them.
The whole race reminds me a little bit of grad school. I used to work in an organic chemistry group that specialized in total synthesis. While it’s true that I learned the value of being first to finish a molecule during those years, I also gained an appreciation for the fine syntheses that, though not first to the finish line, had learned something from others’ work and had a twist that made them valuable. Maybe learning from the earlier two horses in this race as they navigate FDA is part of Orexigen’s strategy.
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