Orexigen revisits Fen-phen…

Today is a big day for Orexigen Therapeutics— (OREX) CEO Mike Narachi. At 1:30 p.m. EST he is scheduled to present at JPMorgan’s big Healthcare Conference in San Francisco. Narachi will have only a brief half hour to explain, or perhaps gloss over the 30-page slideshow that the company filed as an 8K on Monday.

It’s no lie that obesity is increasing healthcare costs in America. As the slideshow notes, obesity rates in the United States will raise from 75 million obese people in 2009 to 103 million by 2018. The slides also reveal that the US healthcare system will spend $344 billion on treating obesity in 2018 — a $197 billion increase from the $147 billion spent as of 2008. For Orexigen, Contrave is the company’s lead investigational product addressing this spreading epidemic. It has completed Phase 3 clinical trials and is on track for a regulatory submission with the FDA in the beginning of 2010 and the company clearly has high hopes for the drug.

While browsing through Orexigen’s presentation, there was one slide that made us lean in to take a closer look. On page 17 the company claims there is a clear demand for a prescription-based solution and that consumers are more than willing to pay. But what’s really surprising is that Orexigen compares this pent-up demand to another weight-loss drug we haven’t heard a lot about lately — Fen-phen— a medication that was taken off the market for causing heart defects, which eventually led to legal damages in excess of $13 billion. Still, the slide notes that between 1995 and 1996, the demand for Fen-phen grew from 6.6 million to 20.6 million prescriptions.

The slideshow also states that, —treating obesity in patients with depressive symptoms may be an attractive future opportunity. The company’s research indicates 92 percent of physicians would be willing to prescribe Contrave for obesity to patients who display depressive symptoms but are not on an antidepressant. However, only 72 percent of doctors say they would suggest Contrave for obese patients who display depressive symptoms and are on an antidepressant. And there was also a pitch to a potential outside suitor: with 150 sales reps, Orexigen is able to reach a much smaller number of doctors. But by teaming up with someone else — they never mention who — “as few as 500 reps can build a blockbuster.”

Orexigen wasn—t the only company to sneak a slideshow into its filings before the conference. Cell Therapeutics (CTIC), MediciNova (MNOV), and Molina Healthcare (MOH) are another three of the conference’s 300 companies that filed their presentations with the SEC this week.

This post was written by footnoted intern Kristen Scholer, who is a junior at Northwestern Unviersity.

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