Pfizer moves forward with once-daily version of weight loss pill after setbacks

Pfizer on Thursday said it will move forward with a once-daily version of its weight loss pill, danuglipron, after it saw “encouraging” data in an ongoing early-stage trial.

The company evaluated several once-daily formulations of the drug and identified one with “the most favorable profile.” Pfizer said it plans to conduct studies in the second half of the year to identify the ideal dose of the drug.

Pfizer is one of several drugmakers racing to win a slice of the market for a highly popular class of weight loss and diabetes drugs called GLP-1 agonists. Some analysts expect the industry to be worth roughly $100 billion by the end of the decade. 

Shares of the company rose more than 3% in premarket trading Thursday.

Pfizer in December discontinued a twice-daily version of danuglipron after patients had trouble tolerating the drug in a mid-stage study. At the time, the pharmaceutical giant said phase one trial data on the once-daily version would “inform a path forward.” 

But investors have been pessimistic about the company’s potential in the GLP-1 space since it scrapped a different once-daily pill in June 2023. Those were among a string of setbacks Pfizer faced last year on top of the rapid decline of its Covid business, which battered its stock. 

Still, Pfizer has other experimental drugs in earlier stages of development, including one for obesity. The company has not disclosed how those treatments will work. 

Pfizer believes GLP-1s are only “scratching the surface of what we will see in obesity,” CEO Albert Bourla said during a conference in June. 

Pfizer’s danuglipron is a GLP-1 that promotes weight loss in the same way as Novo Nordisk’s injection Wegovy and diabetes treatment Ozempic. The drugs mimic a single hormone produced in the gut called GLP-1, which signals to the brain when a person is full.

Injections from Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly have soared in demand over the last year despite their hefty price tags and limited insurance coverage. 

The pair – along with Pfizer and other drugmakers – have been racing to develop oral versions that are more convenient for patients to take and easier to manufacture, which could help alleviate supply shortages in the U.S. 

Pfizer has not ruled out acquiring or partnering with a smaller obesity drugmaker. 

Bourla told reporters at a conference in January that it was unlikely the company would buy an obesity treatment in later-stage development, especially as the company focuses on cutting costs. 

But he said Pfizer was looking for potential licensing deals or earlier-stage weight loss drugs. 

Pfizer’s update on danuglipron comes days after the company said it is searching for a successor to its Chief Scientific Officer Mikael Dolsten, who will step down after more than 15 years at the drugmaker. Dolsten played a crucial role in developing Pfizer’s Covid vaccine.

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