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Viking Therapeutics stock jumps more than 15% on promising diet pill data

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Viking Therapeutics shares closed up more than 15% on Tuesday after the company said its experimental weight loss pill showed positive results in a small study and would enter the next stage of development later this year .

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

Viking is one of several smaller biotech companies hoping to compete Novo Nordisk And Elie Lilly in space, which analysts say could become a $100 billion market by the end of the decade. Some analysts view Viking as a particularly powerful potential player, or as a takeover target for a larger company.

Based on Tuesday’s results, Viking plans to launch a phase two trial of its diet 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 a mid-stage trial last month.

Optimism about Viking’s market potential has sent its shares up 345% this year.

The phase 1 trial of the pill followed more than 40 obese patients for about a month. These people took different doses of the drug or received a placebo.

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

Up to 57% of patients who received Viking’s pill lost at least 5% of their body weight. Meanwhile, no one who took the placebo lost as much weight, the company said.

Notably, those who received higher doses of the experimental pill appeared to maintain or increase their weight loss 34 days into the study, six days after their last dose of the drug. The weight loss of these patients was up to 3.6% greater than that of those who received a placebo.

Viking CEO Brian Lian said on a conference call Tuesday that it was unclear “how sustainable” the weight loss was. Still, he noted that the sustained weight loss seen in the trial could be encouraging for patients who might miss a dose because they travel or don’t have access to their medications.

“I think it’s an encouraging sign that you don’t have to take it every day,” he said.

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In a statement, Viking said it believed treating patients beyond 28 days could achieve “further reductions in body weight.”

The company also said the trial suggested the pill was safe and tolerable.

The majority of side effects experienced by patients after starting to take the medication orally were mild in intensity.

The majority of gastrointestinal events observed by patients were mild. Gastrointestinal side effects, such as nausea and vomiting, are commonly seen in all weight loss and diabetes treatments.

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

Analysts compared Viking’s weight loss injection 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 how the body breaks down sugar and fat.

Meanwhile, Wegovy, Novo Nordisk’s weight loss injection, only targets GLP-1.

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