ECRI, a nonprofit health services research agency, recently published a Health Technology Forecast profile on a novel pharmaceutical agent that is in development for the treatment of obesity.
The drug rimonabant (Acomplia) is the first in a class of cannabinoid type 1 (CB1) receptor antagonists which, if proven safe and effective in ongoing clinical studies, may offer a way for obese patients to lose weight and reduce their risk for developing cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. The data thus far suggest that CB1 receptor antagonists may be safer than previous anti-obesity agents, some of which have been associated with significant side effects and were withdrawn from the market.
In its Health Technology Forecast, an online horizon-scanning resource for healthcare executives, ECRI predicts that if a CB1 receptor antagonist such as rimonabant is approved for marketing, it might provide an option for patients whose degree of overweight or medical characteristics makes them ineligible for bariatric surgery. Rimonabant might also help morbidly obese patients who need to lose weight before they can qualify for bariatric surgery. ECRI expects that any pharmaceutical treatment showing adequate safety and effectiveness for treating obesity will move relatively quickly through the marketing approval process but will require extensive postmarketing surveillance studies because of the adverse effects of previous weight-loss drugs. Two-year data have been reported at recent medical conferences, and the manufacturer is expected to apply for marketing approval of rimonabant from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by mid-2005. If FDA approves the agent, the company expects that it would be able to begin marketing the drug as early as 2006.
ECRI's Health Technology Forecast discusses new technologies in development for obesity treatment and many other diseases/conditions and is one database component of ECRI's Health Technology Assessment Information Service (HTAIS). In this membership service, ECRI follows technologies along the continuum of evidence from research and development into wide utilization. Forecast is the horizon-scanning database resource in the suite of information and services available to members. As evidence accumulates about new healthcare technologies and services, ECRI analyzes the available data to produce various types of evidence reports. ECRI's Forecast identifies drugs, devices, procedures, information systems, and services in development that could potentially have a large impact on some aspect of healthcare. ECRI's HTAIS memberships give hospitals, health systems, and health plans the information they need to make informed and strategic decisions about the healthcare technologies and services they are using today and those they need to plan for tomorrow.