It is all over for Acomplia after Sanofi-Aventis announced that it has decided to terminate all its clinical studies on the controversial anti-obesity drug.

The French drugmaker says it is to discontinue its ongoing Acomplia (rimonabant) trials “in all indications”. The decision “has been taken in light of recent demands by certain national health authorities,” Sanofi added, and “as a result, the feasibility of the global clinical development programme has been compromised".

The move, which has been prompted by health regulators in European countries asking that trials be stopped, comes a couple of weeks after the European Medicines Agency’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use concluded that the benefits of Acomplia “no longer outweigh its risks” and said that marketing authorisation should be suspended.

The reason for the suspension was that the EMEA believes that serious psychiatric disorders “may be more common than in the clinical trials used in the initial assessment of the medicine”. It added that the effectiveness of the drug, which blocks cannabinoid type 1 receptors in the brain, “is more limited than was expected on the basis of the clinical trials, because available data indicate that patients generally take Acomplia only for a short period”.

Sanofi complied with the request but made a statement saying it still believed Acomplia provides “an important therapeutic answer to a highly prevalent and increasing unmet medical need”. It also planned to re-submit the drug for US approval to treat diabetes in the fourth quarter of 2009.

That is now not going to happen and the firm’s decision to pull all its clinical studies on the drug marks the end of the road for Acomplia. Once touted as a blockbuster, those hopes were shattered in June 2007 when a US Food and Drug Administration's advisory committee voted 14-0 against approval and Sanofi withdrew its application.

Total looks to sell sanofi stake by 2012
Meantime, oil giant Total says it is looking to sell its 12.4% stake in Sanofi within the next three years. Chief financial officer Patrick de la Chevardiere said on a conference call with analysts that "the objective is to have no more Sanofi shares on our balance sheet by 2012 and we will use all means available to us to do it". Sanofi shares ended the day down 4.9% at 46.85 euros.