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Arena Applies to Take Weight-Loss Pill to Market

Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc. said Dec. 22 that it has filed an application with the FDA to market a twice-daily weight loss pill, sending shares up slightly on the news.

Arena, traded under the symbol ARNA on Nasdaq, edged up 1 percent in midday trading at $3.77.

In March, the San Diego-based drug maker said a study of 3,200 patients on the drug for a year showed that almost two-thirds of patients lost at least 5 percent of their weight, with an average weight loss of 17.9 pounds. That compared to 7.4 pounds in the placebo group.

A second year-long trial of 4,000 patients showed that those taking Arena’s drug lorcaserin twice a day lost, on average, 5.9 percent of their body weight, compared with 2.8 percent for those taking a placebo — a difference of 3.1 percentage points.

Its results appear to meet one of two FDA-recommended goals for obesity drugs: that at least 35 percent of patients taking its drug lose at least 5 percent of their body weight, and that the group is approximately double the percentage of patients with similar weight loss on the placebo.

The company is competing against Mountain View-based Vivus Inc. and Orexigen Therapeutics Inc., also based in San Diego, to develop the first new prescription weight-loss drug in a decade.

Unlike drugs that control appetite centers in the brain, lorcaserin targets a receptor responsible for controlling mood and motor behaviors.

About two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese, making them more likely to get a litany of other conditions like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis.

As of Dec. 22, Arena shares had a 52-week range of $2.26 to $7.42.

— Heather Chambers

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