Chugai has discontinued Japanese development of the lipase inhibitor R212, originally developed by Roche under the Xenical (orlistat) brand, in order to focus on more promising candidates in its product pipeline.

The Japanese company, which merged with Roche’s Japanese subsidiary in 2002, had been developing Xenical for a particular form of obesity affecting Japanese people known as himansho. However, it has emerged that the Japanese regulatory authorities would require comprehensive Phase III testing to support approval in this indication – despite the clinical efficacy seen in studies conducted in obesity overseas.

Xenical was launched with great expectations in 1999, but failed to achieve its expected blockbuster status as the tolerability of the drug was not as good as hoped. Nevertheless, the product has been a useful mid-range earner for Roche, pulling in nearly $500 million dollars in revenues last year [[02/02/05a]], although its turnover has been on the slide in the last few years. Roche licensed the US over-the-counter (OTC) rights to Xenical to GlaxoSmithKline last summer [[29/07/04d]], [[19/07/04a]].

Chugai said it would jointly with Roche look for licensing partners for R212 in Japan.

- Meanwhile, Chugai has raised its 2005 sales and earnings guidance as a result of the stronger than expected influenza season, and sales of its anti-influenza agent Tamiflu, which are expected to significantly outperform initial annual projections. The company already upped its forecasts in February, saying that net income would come in at around 39.2 billion yen on the back of sales of 293.5 billion yen. Income now looks set to top 43 billion yen, while sales are expected to hit 310.5 billion yen.