Arena shares surge on new round of promising lorcaserin data

With the spotlight squarely on Vivus today as a federal panel gets ready for a crucial vote that could well seal the fate of the obesity drug Qnexa, one of the biotechs it's racing for an approval proffered a fresh set of efficacy data on a competing therapy.

San Diego-based Arena Pharmaceuticals says that just about half of the patients taking its drug lorcaserin in a two-year trial lost at least five percent of their body weight. And that's about twice the rate of weight loss registered in the placebo group.

"It's important to recognize we have a huge unmet need for drugs to treat obesity," study author Steven Smith told Bloomberg. "Doctors want new tools in the toolkit to help their patients lose weight and patients want options to choose from to be able to lose weight and improve their health."

Shares of Arena surged 12 percent on the data, which is being published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Arena is competing with Vivus and Orexigen to gain approval on a new weight drug, angling to become the first developer in more than a decade to win a new approval in the field. The FDA has an October 22 PDUFA deadline for lorcaserin. Eisai is partnered on the drug in the U.S.

- check out the Arena release
- here's the AP report
- here's the story from Bloomberg