July 19, 2024

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The Intersection of Information and Insight

Obesity drug from Zealand shows potential in early trial

2 min read

An experimental weight loss shot developed by Denmark-based Zealand Pharma helped people with obesity lose as much as 9% of their body weight over four months, results the company said support further research on a medicine it hopes could compete with drugs from Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly.

The shot, called petrelintide, is part of a class of drugs called amylin analogues that work differently than GLP-1 agonists like Novo’s Wegovy or Lilly’s Zepbound. They may also be useful in combination to spur greater weight loss. 

The data Zealand disclosed Thursday come from the second part of a Phase 1 trial meant to determine the best dose to advance into the larger studies that might support an approval application. This portion of the trial enrolled 48 people with a body mass index of 29 or higher, and randomized 36 to take one of three weekly doses of petrelintide. The other 12 received a placebo shot. 

Zealand only disclosed data from participants given the highest dose, who lost on average 8.6% of their body weight, and those on placebo, who lost an average of 1.7%. The company expects to release more data at an upcoming medical meeting. 

As much as one-third of people taking petrelintide experienced nausea, one of whom discontinued treatment because of moderate nausea and vomiting, the company said. Wegovy and Zepbound were associated with nausea in around 40% and 30%, respectively, of participants in clinical trials.

Zealand plans to advance petrelintide into Phase 2 testing later this year. That timeline puts it behind Lilly’s amylin-stimulating drug eloralintide, which is already in Phase 2 trials, and Novo Nordisk’s GLP-1 combination drug cagrisema, which is in Phase 3. Cagrisema combines the amylin analogue cagrilintide with semaglutide, the active ingridient in Wegovy and Ozempic. 

However, Zealand executives claimed petrelintide could be “best-in-class” based on the data they’ve seen so far.

In a note to investors, Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Prakhar Agrawal wrote that petrelintide outperformed cagrilintide in a similar trial. In Phase 2, the highest dose of the Novo drug stimulated weight loss of 6% versus placebo, where petrelintide had a 7% margin. The Novo drug was associated with more incidents of nausea.

The differences between the two drugs aren’t conclusive as they haven’t been directly compared in a trial.

Zealand has several opportunities in obesity treatment. Its GLP-1 and glucagon-stimulating drug survodutide, which it is developing with Boehringer Ingelheim, is in a Phase 3 trial. A second GLP-1 drug called dapaglutide is in Phase 2.

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