Roche weight loss drug shows promising results in early study

A logo at the headquarters of Roche Holding AG in Basel, Switzerland, on Thursday, February 1, 2024.

Bloomberg | Getty Images

Roche said Thursday showing off its experimental weight loss drug promising results in an early-stage trial, boosting the company's chance to compete in the booming market for those treatments.

The Swiss company joined a string of drugmakers racing to develop their own anti-obesity drugs through its acquisition of Carmot Therapeutics for nearly $3 billion in December. But it will be years before the weekly weight loss injection, called CT-388, comes to market.

The weight loss drug space is dominated by treatments of Novo Nordisk And Eli LillyAnd some analysts say the market will be worth $100 billion by the end of the decade.

Roche's CT-388 helped obese patients lose 18.8% of their weight compared to those given a placebo, after 24 weeks in the phase one trial.

Roche added that all patients who received the drug achieved weight loss of more than 5%. Meanwhile, 70% of these people lost more than 15% of their weight, and 45% gained more than 20%.

The treatment works by mimicking the effect of two gut hormones – GLP-1 and GIP – to suppress a person's appetite, much like Eli Lilly's popular weight-loss drug Zepbound and diabetes injection Mounjaro.

Scientists have hypothesized that targeting these two hormones could have a meaningful effect on weight loss and blood sugar levels, with fewer side effects than drugs that target GLP-1 alone, such as Novo Nordisk's weight-loss treatment Wegovy.

Roche's CT-388 is being developed to treat both obesity and diabetes.

Roche said it observed no new or unexpected side effects in patients taking CT-388. The company noted that mild to moderate gastrointestinal side effects were the most common side effect, consistent with other weight loss and diabetes drugs that work similarly.

CT-388 also normalized blood sugar levels in a subset of patients with pre-diabetes.

Roche noted that it is testing CT-388 in an additional group of patients with obesity and diabetes for twelve weeks. The company expects data from these patients in the second half of the year.

Eli Lilly's Zepbound produced up to 22% weight loss at 72 weeks, while Novo Nordisk's Wegovy led to 15% weight loss at 68 weeks.

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