As rumors swirl, Shire eyes Vyvanse for binge eating

Amid rumors that it's being targeted for takeover by Bayer, Shire is looking to develop its attention-deficit drug Vyvanse as a treatment for binge-eating disorder. The disorder is set to be recognized in the next version of the DSM, psychiatry's manual of mental illnesses, which matches up with Shire's approach: That brain chemicals run awry can trigger overeating in certain people.

Shire's theory is that the two chemicals in question--dopamine and norepinephrine--work on the brain's perception of rewards. People with binge-eating problems might experience food "more as a drug or substance that's affecting the reward center directly," Harvard Medical School psychiatrist James Hudson told Bloomberg. By affecting those transmitters, Vyvanse might be able to modulate binge eating.

Of course, binge eating can lead to obesity, though it doesn't always. But Shire is careful to characterize Vyvanse as a psychiatric drug, not an obesity drug. After all, the path to approval for an obesity drug has been fraught with pitfalls, with one hopeful after another failing to satisfy regulators. By focusing more narrowly on binge eating, Shire has been able to put Vyvanse's potential new use into the hands of FDA"s psychiatric division, not the metabolic drug group that's been reviewing obesity meds, Bloomberg notes.

Meanwhile, traders in London were having a field day with rumors that Bayer is working with Deutsche Bank on a $25 billion bid for Shire. That's more than $44 per share, and Shire's latest close was 2045 pence, or around $32. Often bandied about as a takeover target, Shire recently snapped up Advanced BioHealing for $750 million, in part to bulk up enough to remain independent.

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