Posts tagged ‘Lorqess’

BELVIQ (lorcaserin) Approved

My webmaster tells me that we have had a record number of visitors to our website this week. Thank you all for visiting us. I suspect many of you were looking for some last minute comments before the June 27, 2011 PDUFA Date for lorcaserin. I didn’t post anything because I had nothing new to add. As I had said in the past, I thought Arena (ARNA) had a better chance of getting approval for LORQESS than did Qnexa because the cardiac problems could be monitored and managed while the teratogenicity issue with Qnexa was binary, ie, all or nothing on the teratogenic effect.

Well, Arena is rejoicing and ringing the BELVIQ! (nee LORQESS). The folks at Vivus (VVUS) and probably some of the analysts are seeing the BELVIQ approval as a sure sign that an approval for QNEXA is just around the corner. I say not so fast. If you remember, a major concern expressed here and raised by some at the Advisory Committee meeting was whether women of child bearing potential who were overweight would heed the warning to avoid getting pregnant, especially in light of the number of women in the QNEXA controlled clinical trials who became pregnant.

Well, those clever folks at FDA added a couple of things to the BELVIQ approval that might do two things. The first is a warning that women of child bearing potential should not take BELVIQ. If I were FDA, I’d try and find a way to monitor how many women and their physicians paid attention to that warning. Should be relatively easy to collect that information. If they find a significant pregnancy rate in women taking BELVIQ, they know the warning is not enough – all this done without jeopardizing an unborn child. The second thing that the FDA did was to recommend that the DEA assign a control classification to BELVIQ. Whether the DEA will do this is unknown at this time. If they do, there is a made to order distribution control for QNEXA should they decide to do it.

If your looking for the bottom line that I normally provide, this is it – if I had to lose 40 pounds in 2 years and had only the choice of waiting for QNEXA or diet, I’d start giving up the cupcakes tomorrow!

The Last Days of the Diet Drug Dilemma

Those of you who read our Special Report on Diet Drugs got a heads up on both the extension of the QNEXA PDUFA Date and the easy time that LORQESS had with the FDA Advisory Committee last week.  But now it’s crunch time and the folks at Vivus and Arena Pharmaceuticals are supplementing their diets with fingernail sandwiches.  Arena has the shorter wait at this time, June 27, 2012 is still their PDUFA Date for LORQESS.  By virtue of the extension, Vivus has to wait until July 26, 2012.

Neither the FDA nor the Advisory Committees have questioned the efficacy of either drug.  Neither set of reviewers have tried to say one is more efficacious than the other.  I agree and would call them equally efficacious.

Both drugs have reported or perceived cardiovascular side effects.  According to the Advisory Committee earlier this year, such drugs should be required to have cardiovascular studies performed before approval.  However, both drugs were submitted for approval and under review when the recommendation, and it is only a recommendation, by the Advisory Committee was made.  That being said, the FDA has a certain degree of leeway in forcing this requirement as an approval requirement.  In my opinion, the FDA will give both companies a break and allow the required study to be done as a condition of approval.  It will be the most closely watched event since the OJ trial.  One might think that QNEXA has the leg up on this because they went to the Advisory Committee first, but in this case, one would be wrong.  Both companies got the information at the same time – from listening to the Advisory Committee live and in person.  Who has the edge on having the protocol in final form?  I don’t know and neither does anyone else except maybe the FDA and I heard they ain’t talking.

FDA doesn’t have to talk about the cardiovascular protocol race because the race isn’t about the cardiovascular side effects, its about the teratogenicity risk.  FDA is breathing a sigh of relief with the data from Arena and the positive vote from the Advisory Committee for LORQESS.  The pressure is off – they have a viable diet drug alternative to QNEXA to satisfy those screaming for a new drug.  And they have an alternative that is not a teratogen.  Even if LORQESS gets an extension of the PDUFA Date from FDA to tidy up their cardiovascular study protocol, they will still be ahead of Vivus who has a somewhat longer struggle with the teratogencity issue.

Diet Drugs in 2012

We’ve had several questions from readers asking if our opinion on the diet drugs that failed in 2011 has changed. Specifically, will Qnexa (or by extrapolation) or any of the other diet drugs have an easier go of it the next time around, ie, is the Cupcake Commentary still valid?

We’re going to take a slightly different approach with this posting and give our readers an insight into one of the changes we are thinking about for 2012 and beyond. We’re going to provide a more detailed commentary in this, the first response to our new feature, the Readers Forum.

Let’s start with the basic criteria for approval from the FDA Guidance on Diet Drugs. The draft guidelines from 2007 state that to prove efficacy, a diet drug must have two adequate and well controlled studies that demonstrate:

After 1 year treatment either:

  • There is a difference of 5% or greater between placebo and active drug OR
  • Greater than 35% of patients treated with drug have a difference of greater than 5% from baseline and twice the difference from placebo.

In earlier postings, we pointed out that the 5% difference is a very modest decrease in weight for a year and is comparable to having one less cupcake a week for a year for a 200 pound person. (200 lbs x 5% = 10 pounds; 10 lbs/52 weeks = 0.192 pounds per week, or about 3 oz, the size of a typical cupcake).

Let’s look at the data that were reported in the Briefing Documents prepared by the sponsors and the FDA for the Advisory Committee meetings that were held to discuss the diet drugs submitted for approval.

DrugEfficacySafety
LorqesFailed 5%- Tumorogenicity
QnexaPassed 5%
- Depression
- Memory Loss
- Metabolic Acidosis
- Increased HR
- Potential teratogen
- Lack of CV Date
ContraveFailed 5%
Passed 35%
- Increased SBP, DBP and HR
- MACE Inadequate
- Psychiatric AE

Let’s look at the alternatives to diet drugs. On one side are the diets and exercise that offer limited benefit and little risk. From purely anecdotal reports, if would appear that the General Motors Diet is the most successful. Many have not heard of this diet because nobody can make any money writing about it. It is the diet that has been used by the General Motors health professionals for years and is freely available on the Internet. Success is often reported as 5% weight loss in a week and safety is not an issue. Attendant with the success is often a change in eating habits.

On the other side of the diet drugs is gastric bypass surgery and its alternative, the stomach band. Success is reported as high as 30% weight loss in a year, a normalization of the diabetic state and a change in eating habits. Safety concerns include those associated with surgery and potential long term metabolic changes. It should be noted that this extreme surgical intervention is limited to those identified as obese and there is significant pre-screening qualification before the surgery and extensive monitoring afterward.

So, as a generality, diets can be said to be the least effective (as measured by sustained weight loss) for the majority of people but the safest, while gastric bypass surgery is currently the most effect but carries the most danger. Diet drugs tend to be between these two extremes, marginally more effective than diet alone but significant potential for more adverse effects.

Of course, the patient populations of these three treatments tend to be different. Diet and exercise is a treatment available to anyone, diet drugs for patients who need a bit more than the diet and exercise and bypass surgery generally reserved for those described as obese.

The FDA and its Advisors must determine if the diet drugs are safe and effective for the intended population, that is, those who fail diet and exercise alone but not so obese that they require bypass surgery.

Is there a regulatory precedent for this kind of treatment and this kind of population? I say yes. Recall the acne treatment isotretinoin or ACCUTANE as it was first marketed. Acne is a disease that can be treated with non-prescription drugs in the mildest condition, prescription drugs for those who don’t respond to the non-prescription drugs and for the most severe forms of acne, treatment with ACCUTANE is effective. Also like the use of diet drugs, acne treatment has a certain cosmetic component to it. By that I mean while there are certainly positive health components to treating both obesity and acne, treatment of both also usually results in a more attractive individual.

The ACCUTANE approval was held up because, like some of the diet drugs, it produced birth defects. The conventional wisdom whispered but never overtly expressed at the time was that this was a time bomb waiting to explode. One potential patient group was women of child bearing potential and clearing up acne had the potential to make their child bearing potential greater. Very restrictive labeling was proposed and rejected. The approval of ACCUTANE was delayed while this aspect of benefit risk was debated. When it was approved, and to this day, it carries a severe restriction requiring that women of child bearing potential have 2 negative pregnancy tests and be using 2 methods of birth control before it can be prescribed to them.

There is no reason to believe that the FDA has reduced its standards for drugs that have a potential for birth defects, especially if the drug has the potential for wide spread use in women of child bearing potential. Like ACCCUTANE, diet drugs have the potential to to make the child bearing potential of women of child bearing potential more potential.

Vivus has resubmitted its NDA for QNEXA with requested additional cardiovascular safety data to address issues that arose during the previous NDA review. These data will be reviewed at an upcoming Advisory Committee in February when the committee will have the opportunity to see the FDAs view of these limited data. It is likely the FDA will also ask the committee to comment on QNEXA use in women of child bearing potential, perhaps the reason the FDA has not insisted on included this population as a contraindication. Or perhaps they just feel it doesn’t make any difference because the drug still doesn’t have a benefit risk ratio that justifies approval.

NEXT TIME: Is it time for the FDA to revise the Guidance document for drugs used to treat obesity?

LORQESS – one more time!

Arena Pharmaceuticals has submitted information on their one year study of LORQESS (lorcaserin) to the FDA to support their NDA application for the drug in treating obesity.  We, as well as others have provided opinions on the likelihood of Arena being successful, the Advisory Committee did not recommend approval and the FDA has not approved LORQESS.  Yet, Arena keeps trying.

The new one year data provide some additional information on the efficacy that still isn’t enough to convince me that the drug is at least meeting the minimum requirements of the FDA Guidelines for Obesity Drugs.  I can’t even say that the results are marginal.  At the end of a year, LORQESS patients showed a 4.5% weight loss from baseline compared to a 1.5% weight loss for placebo patients.
By far, the most alarming data in the one year study are the reports of study patients who showed heart valve problems.  The LORQESS patient group reported 2.9% of patients with heart valve problems vs. only 0.5% reported for the placebo group. 

Doesn’t anyone at Arena remember all the heart valve problems with diet drugs 10 years ago?  C’mon, somebody take the shovel away from them – the hole is deep enough already!

Lorcaserin – FDA Advisory Committee

The FDA Advisory Committee will review Arena’s Lorqess (lorcaserin) on Sept 15, 2010 for the treatment of obesity.  It’s hard to find anything positive to say about this.  It looks like there’s still the marginal efficacy issue that was present before and the safety concerns, particularly regarding cardiovascular, are still there.  Which means Arena has done little to increase the marginal benefit risk ratio they had before.  The only question that remains unanswered is whether any of the Advisory Committee members will recommend approval.