Pfizer’s Twice-daily Weight Loss Tablet is the Latest in a Long Line of Obesity Medicine Failures


Pfizer’s decision to halt the development of its twice-daily weight loss pill, danuglipron, due to adverse side effects adds another chapter to the long history of scrapped obesity treatments. This move comes six months after Pfizer abandoned a different once-daily pill, highlighting the challenges of creating an effective, safe, and tolerable weight loss solution. The pharmaceutical industry has seen recent breakthrough medications like Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy and Eli Lilly’s Mounjaro gaining popularity for their success in promoting significant weight loss, catering to the growing demand in a market where about 40% of U.S. adults are obese.

Historically, numerous experimental obesity drugs faced setbacks, often due to unintended side effects such as elevated liver enzymes, cancer risks, cardiovascular risks, and serious psychiatric problems. For instance, Eisai’s lorcaserin was withdrawn from the market in 2020 due to an increased cancer risk. Sanofi and Aventis’ rimonabant, withdrawn in 2008, posed serious psychiatric problems, including suicide risks. Abbott Laboratories’ sibutramine, approved in 1997 for obesity treatment, was later pulled from the market in 2010 due to an increased risk of cardiovascular events.

The weight loss industry has witnessed a recent surge with new drugs entering the market, but the historical challenges and failures underscore the complexity of developing effective treatments. Pfizer‘s setback further emphasizes the need for balancing efficacy with safety and tolerability. In contrast, recent evidence suggests that some of the newest weight loss drugs, like Wegovy, may have positive effects on heart health, reducing the overall risk of cardiovascular events. The journey to finding a successful and widely accepted weight loss solution remains challenging, requiring thorough research and a comprehensive understanding of potential side effects.

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