Pfizer and others still chasing obesity drugs

Thu Nov 20, 2008 6:17pm EST
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By Bill Berkrot

NEW YORK (Reuters) - After pulling the plug on an experimental obesity drug from a troubled class of medicines, Pfizer Inc's Chief Executive Jeff Kindler said the world's largest drug maker would continue to pursue treatments for the emerging health crisis.

Whether from its own research and development or through licensing deals, Kindler is hopeful Pfizer can come up with a viable weight loss drug.

"We have a group of scientists that spend a lot of time on discovery in that area and it is certainly something that we look to doing both internally and with alliances," Kindler said at the Reuters Health Summit in New York on Thursday.

"It's a huge unmet medical need that has to be addressed and we hope to be at the forefront of that science," Kindler said, echoing similar comments from top executives of Merck and AstraZeneca about the need for obesity medicines.

Earlier this month, Pfizer joined a growing list of drug makers that abandoned obesity treatments which work as an appetite suppressant by blocking the receptors in the brain that make people hungry after smoking marijuana.

The company said it was terminating late stage development of its experimental obesity drug, CP-945,598, citing a more conservative regulatory climate and problems seen with other medicines from the same class.

The class of drugs known as cannabinoid receptor antagonists have been linked to psychiatric side effects, such as depression and suicidal thoughts.

Merck & Co, Belgium's Solvay SA and AstraZeneca PLC -- whose Acomplia was the first medicine in what was once seen as a promising class -- recently pulled the plug on their cannabinoid weight loss drugs.   Continued...

<p>Jeff Kindler, chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer, speaks at the Reuters Health Summit in New York November 20, 2008. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid</p>