With the big guns -- Pfizer
And tiny VIVUS
The drug looked OK in the first of three phase 3 trials. Subjects taking Qnexa lost 9.2% and 8.5% of their body weight at two different doses compared to a 1.7% loss for the placebo group. The percent of patients that lost 5% of body weight -- a pretty good benchmark compared to current obesity treatment options from GlaxoSmithKline
While the data looks good, Qnexa is far from home free. It'll need to perform well in the year-long studies -- this one was just 28 weeks -- without the various side effects that have dogged so many other diet drugs. Results from those two studies are expected in the middle of next year.
Even if Qnexa is successful in its clinical trials, success in the market isn't guaranteed. Orexigen Therapeutics and Arena Pharmaceuticals
The drug is a combination of phentermine, an appetite suppressant best known for forming part of the infamous fen-phen weight loss drug formerly marketed by Wyeth, and the active ingredient in Johnson & Johnson's
With a market cap around $450 million, VIVUS looks accurately priced to me. There's a lot of risk involved in developing drugs for obesity, and its stock isn't likely to take off until the company has eliminated those risks.
Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., wouldn't mind losing 5% of his body weight. He doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and GlaxoSmithKline are Motley Fool Income Investor picks. Pfizer is also an Inside Value recommendation and the Fool owns shares. The Fool's disclosure policy is as thin as a piece of paper.