AstraZeneca's obesity drug study stopped after adverse event

Score one against AstraZeneca ($AZN) in the obesity drug game. Safety reviewers called a stop to the London-based drug giant's Phase I study of an experimental obesity treatment after a man on the injected drug became sick.

The drug, code named AZD2820, is a peptide melanocortin-4 receptor partial agonist from AZ's collaboration with the Cranbury, NJ-based biotech Palatin Technologies ($PTN). The potential bad reaction hit one of the 72 obese men that AZ had planned to enroll in the trial, and the man might have suffered from an allergic reaction to his first shot of the drug. The man was treated and recovered from the serious adverse reaction, according to Palatin's news release.

"We are pleased that the subject has fully recovered from this unfortunate adverse event, and we will work closely with our partner AstraZeneca to investigate the cause of this incident and the overall plans for the AZD2820 program," Carl Spana, Palatin's president and CEO, said in a statement. "AstraZeneca has confirmed their remaining commitment to the continued advancement of melanocortin agonists for treatment of obesity, including a number of collaboration compounds in various stages of preclinical testing."

AstraZeneca, which has suffered a string of pipeline setbacks over the past year, wrapped up a separate Phase I study of AZD2820 in 2011, according to Palatin, without any serious adverse events reported. With the rampant rise in obesity rates around the world, a number of drugmakers have been chasing the multibillion-dollar market opportunity, but any weight drug must meet strict safety standards to gain approval. And the biotechs Vivus ($VVUS), Orexigen ($OREX) and Arena Pharmaceuticals ($ARNA) have had to move past FDA denials of their diet drugs over safety concerns to advance their own drugs.

- here's the release
- see MarketWatch's article