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Pfizer Discontinues Twice Daily Weight Loss Pills in Clinical Trials

It was recently announced that Pfizer discontinued a clinical trial for a twice-daily oral weight loss medication developed as an alternative to weight loss injections. The promise of this medication was significant – Pfizer, for one, thought it was a $10 billion drug with greater potential in the future. More importantly for patients, however, there was the hope that it would offer those who did not want to inject themselves with GLP-1 receptor agonist medication, like Wegovy and Mounjaro, an alternative pill form.

However, much like the injected weight loss medications above, there were side effects. While the side effects were generally well tolerated by many patients in the injection trials, they were far less accepted in pill form. Most side effects were mild and gastrointestinal-related, but they were significant and persistent enough that many patients dropped out of the clinical trial.

Why Are Injected and Oral Medications Different?

On the surface, it may seem unusual that an injected medication would have fewer side effects than a drug of the same kind using the oral route. However, this stands to reason because they have different mechanisms of introduction. The injection enters the via subcutaneous fat area of the stomach, and while it does have gastrointestinal side effects, it is not introduced directly into the G.I. system. On the other hand, the oral route introduces the medication directly into the stomach, emptying into the small intestine and, ultimately, the colon. Because of this direct introduction to the G.I. tract, it’s not surprising that there would be more significant side effects.

What Does This Mean for the Development of Oral Weight Loss Medications?

Ultimately, most still believe that the foundational idea of oral weight loss medication is on the horizon. Pfizer and other drug companies will figure out ways to make this medication more viable for most patients. Pfizer has decided to continue trials with a once-daily pill, which will hopefully have significantly fewer side effects.

In the meantime, patients who need to lose significant weight may consider bariatric surgeries like gastric sleeve and gastric bypass and have the option of injected weight loss medications.

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