Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) announced today that it is discontinuing the development of its once-a-day experimental obesity pill due to concerns about liver safety. The decision comes after patients participating in clinical studies showed elevated levels of liver enzymes when taking the drug, known as lotiglipron.
Following the news, Pfizer’s shares fell 5.23% in the early-hours trading on Monday.
However, the company will continue to focus on its other obesity pill, the twice-daily treatment danuglipron, as it aims to compete with successful weight loss treatments in the market.
Pfizer had been working on both pills simultaneously but expressed a preference for the once-daily treatment. CEO Albert Bourla has previously stated that an obesity pill could become a $10-billion-a-year product for Pfizer. However, the recent development puts a setback on their plans.
This news follows the recent release of promising data by Pfizer’s competitor, Eli Lilly and Company (LLY), for its own once-daily experimental pill called orforglipron.
Analyst Robyn Karnauskas from Truist Securities commented that Lilly now seems to have an advantage in the race for a once-a-day obesity pill. She highlighted the importance of a once-daily formulation for weight loss.
“We believe while (twice a day) has advantages, we really need a (once daily) formulation for weight loss,” she said in a research note.
On a positive note, Pfizer stated that none of the patients involved in the lotiglipron trials reported any liver-related symptoms or side effects. There was no evidence of liver failure, and no patients required treatment. In addition, the liver enzyme elevations observed in the lotiglipron trials have not been observed in patients enrolled in danuglipron trials, according to the company.
Pfizer aims to finalize plans for the danuglipron late-stage program by the end of the year. The company remains committed to finding effective weight loss solutions and capitalizing on the growing market demand. The success of Novo Nordisk’s Ozempic and Wegovy, which are once-weekly injections for treating obesity and diabetes, has created significant demand in the United States.
Industry experts and analysts predict that the market could support up to 10 competing products, with annual sales potentially reaching $100 billion within the next decade.