Genomics might have rescued Sanofi diet drug

Could gene testing have saved Sanofi-Aventis' (NYSE: SNY) weight-loss drug Acomplia? U.S. researchers think so. Testing patients for particular genetic characteristics might have screened out those most likely to get depressed or suicidal while using the drug, allowing Sanofi to sell it to the rest.

Sanofi pulled Acomplia off the European market after a 2008 study confirmed that it boosted the risk of psychiatric side effects in some patients. It never won FDA approval for sale in the U.S., but a study published in the latest Lancet says pinpointing the offending gene might have reversed both of those outcomes.

"Finding the gene for severe adverse drug reactions is a lot easier than we ever thought it would be," Eric Topol of Scripps Translational Science Institute tells Reuters. "We probably could have figured out genomically who was susceptible and that drug could be quite viable."

 As Reuters notes, the company had high hopes for the diet drug, which helped people lose weight, stabilize blood sugar and improve "good" cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Topol says it's probably too late for genomics to help Acomplia, but there could be hope for  other pending weight-loss meds. 

- read the Reuters piece