Shares of obesity drug developers rose Thursday following a report that Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s lorcaserin prompted weight loss without heart-related side effects.
On Wednesday, a study showed that lorcaserin caused more people to lose at least 5 percent of their body weight over one year, or more than double the rate of placebo. The results are in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.
The drug is one of three potential blockbusters that could reach the market over the next several years. A key to their success could lie in the safety profile, as prior diet pills have faced issues with heart-related problems. One-half of the drug combination "fen-phen" was pulled from the market in 1997 after it was tied to heart valve problems.
Shares of Arena, based in San Diego, rose 52 cents, or 12.2 percent, to $4.80 in morning trading.
Lorcaserin is set for a Food and Drug Administration review in September.
Meanwhile, shares of Vivus Inc., based in Mountain View, Calif., were halted at $12.11. A Food and Drug Administration panel of experts will meet Thursday to review Qnexa and make a recommendation on the drug. In briefing materials, the FDA acknowledged the drug's effectiveness, but voiced some concern over potential side effects, which could include depression, memory and concentration lapses, and heart-related issues.
Shares of Orexigen Therapeutics Inc., based in La Jolla, Calif., rose 9 cents to $5.64. The company is developing Contrave, which is up for FDA review in December.
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