Orexigen CEO Mike Narachi Talks PhRMA, Innovation and Obesity

Orexigen CEO Mike Narachi Talks PhRMA, Innovation and Obesity

04.15.11 | By Kate Connors

An interview with The Catalyst and Orexigen CEO Mike Narachi

1. Talk about what it is for a company like Orexigen to become a member of PhRMA?

We're obviously excited because our goals align so closely with those of PhRMA. As a small company with a late-stage product, we understand the importance of creating an environment that fosters innovation, and becoming a member of PhRMA -- a group that has made innovation such a priority -- was a natural fit.

2. Why did you join in the first place? What were your expectations of membership?

We joined for two reasons. First, we've developed a unique perspective on the drug development process as a company that has brought Contrave -- an obesity drug designed to fill a gaping need for patients and doctors -- through Phase 3 testing and FDA review, and we wanted to share what we've learned with others in the industry. Secondly, we see ourselves as potential beneficiaries of PhRMA's ongoing work to promote innovation and transparent, unambiguous regulation, and we want to support those efforts, which are so meaningful to us. It's a big organization with a tremendous amount of resources, and we wanted to tap into that wisdom and support.

3. What are the challenges in the obesity market and how can PhRMA help?

Obesity is a growing catastrophe. It is a medical epidemic affecting more than one in three Americans, and it's a financial drag on our economy that is responsible for nearly $150 billion of direct medical spending annually -- a number that's expected to grow. That kind of human and financial toll is unsustainable. PhRMA can help -- and has helped -- by raising awareness of the disease. We need a change in the way that obesity is viewed. It's not a harmless disease, and we need to change the thinking around the possibilities for therapeutic intervention. The safety margin for obesity treatments needs to be high, but we also need to take care that we don't become so focused on theoretical risks of treatment that we ignore the very real risks of untreated obesity.

4. What do you expect to get out of the annual meeting?

We're looking to understand more about where the pharmaceutical market has been and what the future will hold; the speakers are going to bring a lot of intelligence and vision that may equate to foresight for a smaller company, like ours. We anticipate forging some new connections and talking through our experiences with others that have gone through similar challenges in the regulatory process, and those preparing to take a drug to market globally. And, naturally, we're eager to hear what the STOP Obesity Alliance will have to say during their presentation. Patients and advocates have been large supporters of the idea that we need more and better tools to treat obesity, so we take their comments with the utmost seriousness.

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