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Sanofi hoping for new wonder drug
French drugmaker says experimental treatment shows promise in fighting heart disease, diabetes.
November 16, 2005: 5:26 PM EST
By Aaron Smith, CNN/Money staff writer

DALLAS (CNN/Money) - An experimental drug from Sanofi-Aventis has been shown to have multiple benefits in treating heart disease and diabetes, the big French drugmaker announced Wednesday.

The drug, rimonabant, reduced triglycerides, blood fats that have been associated with heart disease, and increased HDL cholesterol, also known as "good" cholesterol, in late-stage trials, the company said at a meeting of the American Heart Association.

"Presumably those improvements would contribute to reducing the risks of diabetes and heart disease," said Dr. Jean-Pierre Despres, lead investigator in the study.

Rimonabant also reduced weight and blood pressure and boosted levels of adiponectin, a protein that helps reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

"We know that patients treated with rimonabant are going to eat less and if they eat less they're going to lose weight and if they lose weight their risk factors will improve," said Despres, research director at Quebec Heart Institute at the Laval Hospital Research Center in Sainte-Foy, Quebec.

In addition, rimonabant lowered insulin levels and improved the tolerance of sugar in the blood, which are important factors in diabetes, according to Sanofi-Aventis.

Here are the results of the one-year study, as reported by the drugmaker, involving daily doses of rimonabant in overweight or obese patients:

  • Triglycerides reduced by 12.6 percent, compared to 0.2 percent reduction with placebo
  • HDL cholesterol increased by 19.1 percent, compared to 11 percent increase with placebo
  • Weight loss of 15.2 pounds, compared to 3.3 pound weight loss with placebo
  • Blood pressure decreased more than six times the decrease seen with placebo
  • Adiponectin increased by 57 percent, about three times the increase with placebo
  • Insulin levels decreased and blood sugar tolerance improved

Rimonabant, which would be marketed as Acomplia if it is approved by regulators, could be used to treat a "cluster" of indications associated with heart disease and diabetes, said Despres, who stressed the importance of slim waistlines and weight reduction.

The drugmaker submitted an application for rimonabant to the Food and Drug Administration in June. The agency typically takes about 10 months to review a new drug application.

"At least 80 percent of type 2 diabetics are abdominally obese," he said, referring to the most common type of diabetes. "If you were to wipe out obesity in North America, you would reduce type 2 diabetes by 80 percent. No wonder these patients are time bombs for disease."

In a recent interview before the study's results were released, Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Gbola Amusa projected that if Acomplia is approved, it could reach $5 billion in annual sales.  Top of page

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