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Spray Away Obesity? Company Offers Nasal Spray to Battle the Bulge

Dieters may find some welcome assistance from a new nasal spray that could help resist the appetizing aromas of cinnamon bun stands, pizza parlors or tempting bakeries.

Compellis Pharmaceuticals of Cambridge, Massachusetts said it will begin human trials next year of a nasal spray designed to fight obesity by blocking the senses of smell and taste. It won a patent for the product this month.

"The pleasurable effect of eating is all stimulated by smell and taste," Christopher Adams, the company's founder and chief executive, told Reuters Tuesday.

"The premise is that olfactory activity that controls both smell and taste is a trigger and a feedback mechanism to eat. If you have some kind of reduced sense of smell or taste, you tend to eat less," he said.

The product, known as CP404, is among the latest devices and treatments under development in the multibillion-dollar fight against obesity.

An estimated 65 percent of adult Americans are overweight or obese, putting them at higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and other conditions that account for more than $100 billion of the country's $1.9 trillion annual healthcare bill.

French drug maker Sanofi-Aventis (SNY) began marketing its obesity pill Acomplia in Britain in June and expects to receive U.S. government approval by April to sell the drug in the United States. The pill switches off the same brain circuits that make people hungry when they smoke cannabis.

Medtronic Inc. , the world's biggest maker of medical devices, is developing a battery-powered gastric pacemaker that causes the stomach to contract, sending signals of satiety to the appetite center in the brain.

Enteromedics Inc. of Minneapolis is working with the Mayo Clinic on a device known as "Maestro" that uses electricity to paralyze the stomach, reducing or stopping contractions that churn food as part of the digestion process.

Those last two devices, like CP404, are still years away from reaching consumers.

TO SEEK FDA APPROVAL

Adams said he would seek Food and Drug Administration approval in about three years after human trials begin in 2007. He also expects to tap the stock market to raise $25 million to $50 million in an initial public offering if human trials are successful, with the spray expected to hit the market in 2010.

The nasal spray treatment would retail at $500 to $1,000 a year.

The Obesity Action Coalition, a Tampa, Florida-based nonprofit organization, cautioned that any such spray should be accompanied by other treatments and a change in lifestyle to be effective.

"There are a lot of reasons why obesity exists, and it's not always a case of food addiction," said James Zervios, a spokesman for the coalition.

"People still need to eat. Every time they get hungry I don't think they could just use the spray," he said. "People need to be taught what are the better foods to eat — what's high on protein, what's low on fat."

Bariatric surgery, including gastric bands like the Lapband, is the only effective permanent solution, doctors say. Gastric bypass surgery makes the stomach smaller so patients can eat less and cuts out a long stretch of small intestine so fewer nutrients are absorbed.

But the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a unit of the federal government's Public Health Service, has warned that four of every 10 patients who undergo weight-loss surgery develop complications within six months.