The German state health insurance system will not reimburse the cost of treatment with Sanofi-Aventis’ new obesity drug Acomplia or Exubera an inhaled formulation of insulin developed by Pfizer, it emerged yesterday.

The Federal Joint Committee charged with recommending drug prescribing practices and reimbursement in Germany, the G-BA, believes funding treatment with Acomplia (rimonabant) is inappropriate because it is a lifestyle drug, a viewpoint which Sanofi-Aventis has been quick to contest.

Acomplia was first introduced in June in some European markets after its approval for use alongside diet and exercise in treating overweight or obese patients with signs of dyslipidaemia and other associated risk factors. Sanofi-Aventis believes it has a blockbuster on its hands with the drug, although much will depend on securing approval in the USA, which could come before the end of the year.

Sanofi insists Acomplia meets a pressing need, with the number of obese people spiralling upwards around the developed world, closely shadowed by increases in healthcare costs. The drug’s monthly cost of around $100 is justified by the improvement in cardiometabolic risk factors, it says.

Meanwhile, the G-BA also concluded that the increased cost of Exubera compared to injectable insulins did not outweigh its benefits, as its efficacy was the same but it cost five times as much. This view echoes that of the UK’s National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence, which recommended earlier this year that Exubera only be used in patients with demonstrated needle phobia