The Next Ozempic Might Be on the Way

The next Ozempic might be on the way.

Pharmacological weight loss drugs are booming and the latest looks to be from biopharmaceutical company Viking Therapeutics Inc. After releasing the news Tuesday morning, the company’s stock price closed up 121 percent to $85.05.

While weight loss drugs first took off in Hollywood, now they are becoming more commonplace with customers purchasing them on their own or getting prescriptions from telehealth providers.

The drug, currently referred to as VK2735, is a glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) receptor and glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) receptor agonist. Both Mounjaro and Zepbound are dual agonists as well, which studies have shown can be more effective in comparison to drugs like Ozempic, which only target one receptor.

The findings of the VK2735 Phase 2 Venture placebo-controlled clinical trial, which enrolled 176 adults who were obese or overweight with at least one related comorbidity, were released Tuesday. In a release, the company reported “statistically significant reductions in mean body weight after 13 weeks, ranging up to 14.7 percent from baseline.” Patients did not experience any weight loss plateau during the trial, the company said.

The most common side effects for the weight loss drugs currently on the market, like Ozempic and Zepbound, include nausea, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting and stomach pain. In this trial, 92 percent of patients reported side effects as mild or moderate.

“Notably robust weight loss compared with placebo was observed early across all doses evaluated in the Venture study, and continued throughout the treatment period in all treatment groups. No evidence of a plateau was observed at week 13 for any VK2735 dose, suggesting further weight loss might be achieved from extended dosing periods,” said Brian Lian, Ph.D., chief executive officer of Viking Therapeutics Inc. in a statement. “We look forward to progressing this important therapy into further clinical development later this year. Separately, we remain on track to report data from a Phase 1 study of an oral formulation of VK2735 later this quarter.”

While the drug poses strong weight loss potential, some doctors are wary.

“We have effective medications out on the market right now, but the goal is not to lose a lot of weight in a short period of time,” said Dr. Michelle Pearlman, a board certified gastroenterologist and obesity medicine specialist. “If you look at the data, that’s what this experimental drug from Viking is claiming to do. We know that current medications achieve their weight loss impact through a combination of fat loss and loss of lean muscle mass, so it could be worrisome to overall metabolic health if there is too much loss in muscle mass.”

VK2735 isn’t the only weight loss drug undergoing clinical trials. Eli Lilly, the manufacturer of Mounjaro and Zepbound, is currently studying retatrutide, which is an agonist of three hormone receptors including GLP-1 and GIP.

In order to go to market, VK2735 requires further assessment.

“Likely next steps include a Phase 3 pivotal trial featuring more patients and studying both the efficacy and safety of the medication,” said Dr. Pearlman. “Once the study is complete, Viking will likely work with the FDA to file its full New Drug Application with the FDA.”

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