Weight reduction tablet from Viking Therapeutics reveals constructive research outcomes

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Viking Therapeutics Shares closed more than 15% higher on Tuesday after the company said its experimental weight-loss pill showed positive results in a small trial and will enter the next phase of development later this year.

The study results add to excitement about the drugmaker's prospects in the emerging weight-loss drug market.

Viking is one of several small biotech companies it plans to compete with Novo Nordisk And Eli Lilly in what analysts say could grow into a $100 billion market by the end of the decade. Some analysts view Viking as a particularly strong potential player or acquisition target for a larger company.

Based on Tuesday's results, Viking plans to begin a Phase 2 trial of its weight-loss pill later this year. The once-daily tablet is an oral version of the company's experimental weight-loss injection, which showed encouraging results in an interim study last month.

Optimism about Viking's market potential has caused the company's shares to rise 345% this year.

The Phase 1 study of the pill followed more than 40 patients with obesity for about a month. These people took different doses of the drug or received a placebo.

Viking said patients who received the once-daily pill lost up to 5.3% of their weight on average after 28 days, or up to 3.3% more than those who took a placebo.

Up to 57% of patients who received the Viking pill lost at least 5% of their body weight. Meanwhile, none of the people who took the placebo lost as much weight, the company said.

Notably, those who received higher doses of the experimental pill maintained or increased their weight loss on day 34 of the study, six days after the last dose of the drug. Weight loss in these patients was up to 3.6% greater than those who received a placebo.

Viking CEO Brian Lian said during a conference call Tuesday that it was unclear “how permanent” the weight loss would be. Still, he noted that the sustained weight loss seen in the study could be encouraging for patients who may miss a dose because they are traveling or do not have access to their medication.

“I think this is an encouraging sign that you don't necessarily have to take it every day,” he said.

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In a press release, Viking explained that treating patients beyond 28 days could result in “further reductions in body weight.”

The company also said the study found the pill to be safe and tolerable.

Most adverse reactions experienced by patients after starting the oral drug were mild in severity.

Most gastrointestinal events experienced by patients were mild. Gastrointestinal side effects such as nausea and vomiting are common with all weight loss treatments and diabetes.

But people who received the Viking pill did not report vomiting. Patients who took the placebo also reported diarrhea more often than those treated with the oral drug, the company said.

Analysts have compared Viking's weight loss shot to Eli Lilly's injectable drug Zepbound because both drugs mimic two naturally produced gut hormones called GLP-1 and GIP.

GLP-1 helps reduce food intake and appetite. GIP, which also suppresses appetite, may also improve the way the body breaks down sugar and fat.

Meanwhile, Novo Nordisk's weight loss shot Wegovy only targets GLP-1.

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