Amgen scraps experimental weight loss pill, moves forward with injection


Amgen on Thursday said it will stop developing its experimental weight loss pill and instead move forward with its injectable drug and other products in development for obesity.

The announcement is a setback for Amgen, which is among several drugmakers racing to join the red-hot weight loss drug space dominated by Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly, which some analysts say could be worth $100 billion by the end of the decade. But the company has other opportunities to capture a slice of the market.

“Given the profile we’ve seen with [the oral drug], we will not pursue further development. Instead, in obesity, we’re differentially investing in MariTide and a number of preclinical assets,” Jay Bradner, Amgen’s chief scientific officer, said during an earnings call Thursday.

Amgen is developing an injectable obesity treatment called MariTide, which is an ongoing midstage trial in obese or overweight adults without diabetes. The company will release initial data from that study later this year and said it is working with regulators to plan a late-stage trial. Amgen is planning a stage two trial on the drug in diabetes treatment as well.

Amgen also has other drugs in development for weight management. 

The drugmaker’s oral drug, called AMG-786, is the second weight loss pill to be discontinued over the past year.

Pfizer in December scrapped a twice-daily version of its obesity pill, danuglipron, after patients had a difficult time tolerating the drug in a midstage trial. The company is now developing a once-daily version of that drug.

Investors are laser-focused on Amgen’s pipeline of experimental weight loss treatments. Amgen hopes to stand out among the crowded field of potential players with a different approach. 

The company’s experimental injection helps people lose weight differently from the existing injectable drugs. Much similar to Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy and Eli Lilly’s Zepbound, one part of Amgen’s treatment activates a gut hormone receptor called GLP-1 to help regulate a person’s appetite. 

But while Zepbound activates a second hormone receptor called GIP, Amgen’s drug blocks it. Wegovy does not target GIP, which suppresses appetite like GLP-1, but may also improve how the body breaks down sugar and fat.

Amgen’s injectable treatment also appears to help patients keep weight off after they stop taking it based on some clinical trial data. The drugmaker is also testing its drug to be taken once a month or even less frequently, which could offer more convenience than the weekly medicines on the market. 

Patients given the highest dose of Amgen’s MariTide — 420 milligrams — every month lost 14.5% of their body weight on average in just 12 weeks, according to data from the phase one trial published in February in the journal Nature Metabolism. 

Amgen’s first-quarter results

Also on Thursday, Amgen reported first-quarter revenue and adjusted earnings that topped Wall Street’s expectations, partly due to products from the recently acquired Horizon Therapeutics. 

Here’s what Amgen reported for the first quarter compared with what Wall Street was expecting, based on a survey of analysts by LSEG:

  • Earnings per share: $3.96 vs. $3.87 expected
  • Revenue: $7.45 billion vs. $7.44 billion expected

Amgen posted a net loss of $113 million, or 21 cents per share. That compares to a net income of $2.84 billion, or $5.28 per share, for the year-earlier period.

Excluding certain items, the company reported earnings of $3.96 per share. 

Amgen booked $7.45 billion in revenue for the first quarter, up 22% from the same period a year ago. 

That includes $914 million from Horizon Therapeutics products, including thyroid eye disease treatment Tepezza. 

Excluding drugs from Horizon, Amgen said its product sales grew 6% from the year-earlier period. Ten products delivered double-digit volume growth during the first quarter, including cardiovascular drug Repatha, severe asthma treatment Tezspire and Blincyto, a therapy for a certain blood cancer.

Amgen slightly narrowed its full-year guidance on Thursday, as well. 

The company expects 2024 revenue of 32.5 billion to $33.8 billion. That compares to a previous guidance of $32.4 billion to $33.8 billion. 

Amgen expects a full-year adjusted profit of $19 to $20.20 per share. That compares to a previous guidance of $18.90 to $20.30 per share. 

Analysts surveyed by LSEG expect full-year revenue of $32.95 billion and adjusted profit of $19.48 per share. 

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