Arena’s Expanded Marketing Deal with Eisai Has Broad Implications

11/12/13Follow @bvbigelow

Arena Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ARNA) rode a wave of investor enthusiasm after the San Diego company said last week it has expanded its commercialization agreement with the Japanese drug giant Eisai to cover most of the world. The news sent Arena’s stock soaring Friday (gaining over 17 percent to close at $4.79 a share) and again Monday (closing at $5.30), before settling back to $5.05 a share in regular trading today.

It took me until today to catch up with Arena CEO Jack Lief by phone, but he says, in effect, this is just the beginning.

Eisai began marketing and distributing Arena’s weight-loss drug lorcaserin HCL (Belviq) in the United States about five months ago under terms of their previous agreement, which covered North and South America. The expanded agreement, Lief says, establishes a broader platform with Esai to evaluate other potential uses of locaserin.

Lief says, “First up in our priority list is to start a study looking at [the use of lorcaserin] in smoking cessation.”

Independent preclinical studies conducted by two academic centers indicate that lorcaserin could be effective in helping smokers to quit. Under the terms of their expanded marketing and supply agreement, Eisai and Arena plan to initiate a Phase 2 clinical trial in the first half of 2014 to evaluate lorcaserin for smoking cessation. “If we’re correct, this opens up a very large market that is very poorly addressed,” Lief says.

In the United States, an estimated 43.8 million people, or about 19 percent of all people 18 and older, smoke cigarettes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. In China, press reports indicate there are more than 300 million smokers. Arena’s Lief estimates that 80 percent of the smokers in China are men.

In a conference call with analysts Friday, Arena executives said terms of their expanded marketing and supply agreement allow Arena and Eisai to also evaluate lorcaserin combined with phentermine to … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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