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Roche (RHHBY) Posts Encouraging Phase I Obesity Drug Data

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Roche (RHHBY - Free Report) announced positive results from an early-stage study evaluating one of its recently acquired obesity drug candidates, CT-388. Over 24 weeks, patients who received this once-weekly, subcutaneously-injected drug achieved a mean placebo-adjusted weight loss of 18.8%.

Per management, the above results were ‘clinically meaningful and statistically significant’ when compared with placebo. Roche also provided an insight into this data. While all patients who received CT-388 achieved more than a weight loss of more than 5%, around 45% of patients lost more than 20% of their body weight.

Roche did not provide any data related to the dosage of the drug. Management noted that the side effects of the drug were similar to the currently marketed incretin-based medicines like Novo Nordisk’s (NVO - Free Report) Wegovy and Eli Lilly’s (LLY - Free Report) Zepbound, both of which are approved to treat obesity.

Treatment with CT-388 was also shown to be beneficial to type 2 diabetes (“T2D”) patients. Roche stated that all study participants with a pre-diabetes status at baseline achieved normalized glycemia after 24 weeks of treatment. The glycemic status remained largely unchanged in the placebo-administered study participants.

Roche is also evaluating CT-388 in an additional cohort of the phase I study in obese patients with T2D over a 12-week treatment period. Data from this cohort is expected later this year.

Year to date, Roche’s shares have lost 13.3% against the industry’s 14.5% growth.

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Roche forayed into the obesity market when it acquired privately owned Carmot Therapeutics for $2.7 billion. CT-388 is one of the assets added by the company to its pipeline post this buyout. Roche also added other incretin-based obesity drug candidates, namely CT-996 and CT-868. While CT-996 is an oral formulation to treat obesity patients with and without T2D, CT-868 is intended to treat obese patients with type I diabetes (T1D).

Per Roche, this recently acquired incretin-based portfolio could also be expanded to other indications where incretins play a role, including cardiovascular, retinal and neurodegenerative diseases.

The obesity market garnered much interest lately, ever since Novo Nordisk received FDA approval for Wegovy. The FDA approved the Novo Nordisk drug in 2021 for chronic weight management in adults with obesity or overweight. Since approval, sales of the drug have been rising consistently, driven by increased demand.

The latest entry into the obesity race is Lilly, following the FDA’s approval for Zepbound in December. Lilly commercially launched the drug in January.

These two drugs have helped Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly dominate the obesity space and achieve a market cap north of $500 billion. Anticipating an even bigger market for obesity drugs, both Lilly and Novo are separately evaluating multiple other obesity candidates in their pipeline.

Per research conducted by Goldman Sachs, the obesity market in the United States is expected to grow to $100 billion by 2030. As a result, several pharma big-wigs like Amgen (AMGN - Free Report) and AstraZeneca are developing their obesity drugs to gain a small but lucrative foothold.

Earlier this month, Amgen announced that an interim analysis of data from a phase II study on its GLP-1 receptor candidate, MariTide (maridebart cafraglutide), for obesity is complete. Though the company did not discuss any numbers, management stated that the company was ‘very encouraged’ with the interim data. Top line 52-week data from this study is expected in late 2024. Amgen is planning to conduct a comprehensive phase III program on the candidate across obesity, obesity-related conditions and diabetes.

Last November, AstraZeneca entered into an exclusive deal with Chinese private biotech Eccogene to develop the latter’s oral drug, ECC5004, for treating obesity, type-II diabetes and other cardiometabolic conditions. With the agreement, AstraZeneca will get exclusive global development and commercialization rights to Eccogene in all territories except China. Eccogene and AstraZeneca will have joint rights in China.

Zacks Rank

Roche currently has a Zacks Rank #4 (Sell).


You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) stocks here.

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