In a strategic shift, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has decided to discontinue the development of its experimental obesity therapy, the twice-daily oral GLP-1 receptor agonist danuglipron. The decision comes after a mid-stage trial revealed high discontinuation rates with the drug, reaching more than 50% across the dosage range compared to approximately 40% for the placebo. Despite observing significant weight loss of 8% to 13% in patients after 32 weeks of treatment in the phase 2b trial, the company opted to pivot towards a once-daily version of the drug, codenamed PF-06882961.
Pfizer acknowledged that most adverse events were mild and gastrointestinal, aligning with the drug’s mechanism of action. The move to a once-daily formulation aims to address the high discontinuation rates and is currently undergoing a pharmacokinetic study to determine its viability. This marks the second time this year that Pfizer has abandoned an obesity drug, following concerns about liver safety that led to the discontinuation of another once-daily GLP-1 agonist, lotiglipron.
Despite these setbacks, Pfizer remains committed to advancing its obesity portfolio and believes that an improved once-daily formulation of danuglipron could play a crucial role in the evolving obesity treatment landscape, although the decision introduces a notable delay to Pfizer’s entry into the market.
The obesity market has witnessed transformation with the success of injectable GLP-1 drugs like Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy and Eli Lilly’s recently approved Zepbound, both of which also have oral formulations in development. Pfizer’s decision reflects the competitive challenges in the obesity therapeutics landscape and the evolving nature of drug development strategies in response to clinical trial outcomes.