New ‘Twincretin’ Pemvidutide: Another Option for Obesity

HAMBURG, Germany ― The investigational incretin receptor agonist pemvidutide produced significant weight loss and other cardiometabolic benefits in a phase 2 randomized trial, adding a different type of “twincretin” to a growing mix of incretin-based weight-loss drugs in development that also offer additional benefits.

Pemvidutide (Altimmune, Inc) is a long-acting “balanced” dual agonist of both glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) and glucagon that is in development for the treatment of obesity and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) but not type 2 diabetes, as its effect on glucose is neutral. Phase 1 data for pemvidutide’s liver effect were presented in 2022.

In contrast, the dual GLP-1-glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide (GIP) agonist tirzepatide (Mounjaro, Lilly) has been approved for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. It awaits an indication for obesity.

“When you look [at] the results for any given agent, think about obesity as a series of problems. Some overlap, and some don’t. While about 20% to 25% of people with obesity also have type 2 diabetes, not everybody does. So the compounds that don’t lower glucose…those will be great for others who have [fatty liver disease] or hyperlipidemia…. It’s not going to be one compound for everybody,” said Louis J. Aronne, MD, director of the Center for Weight Management and Metabolic Clinical Research, Weill-Cornell Medical College, New York.

Results of a new 24-week interim analysis of data from the phase 2 pemvidutide trial, called MOMENTUM, were presented October 3 at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) 2023 Annual Meeting by Aronne.

Included in that session were encore presentations of data for another GLP-1-glucagon dual agonist, survodutide, as well as data for Eli Lilly’s GLP-1-GIP-glucagon “triagonist,” retatrutide. Retatrutide is in development to induce weight loss, while survodutide (Boehringer Ingelheim and Zealand Pharma), like pemvidutide, is in development to induce weight loss and treat fatty liver disease.

Added Aronne, “As good as [the triple agonist] retatrutide looks, I doubt that every single person with obesity in the world will be treated with it…. Think about this as a field, the way you treat diabetes and every other chronic illness.”

Asked to comment, session moderator Rajna Golubic, PhD, of the Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism, Oxford, United Kingdom, told Medscape, “We need to think in terms of treating beyond weight loss…. We need to look at the person holistically and at other aspects of cardiometabolic health and treat in a personalized way and choose treatments according to the comorbidities people have.”

Regarding the dual GLP-1-glucagon agonists, including pemvidutide, Golubic pointed out that the glucagon agonism does the opposite of glucose-lowering agents but that the compound is “balanced for greater affinity for the GLP-1 receptor vs glucagon, so that the beneficial effects outweigh the effect for glucose but it still harnesses the benefits of glucagon on liver with a decrease in liver fat, with positive effects on heart, positive effects on kidneys, and other beneficial metabolic effects.”

Pemvidutide Lowers Weight, LDL, Triglycerides, and Blood Pressure

Aronne began his presentation by noting that dyslipidemia, fatty liver disease, and hypertension are the most significant comorbidities of obesity, occurring in 66% to 70%, 58% to 75%, and 45% to 55% of patients, respectively, while type 2 diabetes is less common, at 19% to 23%.

Pemvidutide’s GLP-1 receptor agonism reduces appetite, inflammation, and gastric emptying, while glucagon agonism increases lipolysis, mobilizes fat, and increases energy expenditure, Aronne explained.

The 48-week phase 2 MOMENTUM trial randomly assigned 320 participants with overweight or obesity and at least one obesity-related comorbidity but not diabetes to receive weekly doses of 1.2 mg, 1.8 mg, or 2.4 mg of pemvidutide or placebo. The two lower pemvidutide doses were initiated immediately without titration, while the 2.4-mg dose was titrated rapidly over 4 weeks.

In a prespecified interim analysis of 160 participants, the percent body weight loss at 24 weeks was 10.7%, 9.4%, and 7.3% with the 2.4-mg, 1.8-mg, and 1.2-mg doses, respectively (P < .001). All weight loss values were significant; weight loss with placebo was a nonsignificant 1%.

The proportions of patients who lost at least 5% of their body weight were 84.6%, 66.7%, and 66.7%, respectively, vs 25% with placebo. Half of the patients who received the 2.4-mg and 1.8-mg doses lost at least 10% of their body weight. Reductions in waist circumference followed suit; the patients who received the 2.4-mg dose lost an average of 10.2 cm, or “in the US, about 4 inches or 4 belt loops. That’s pretty good, you need a new belt,” Aronne commented.

Significant reductions in total cholesterol and triglyceride levels were also seen at week 24 by 16.5% and 25.0%, respectively, with the 2.4-mg dose. Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels also dropped, although not significantly; high-density lipoprotein levels dropped significantly.

Systolic blood pressure dropped by 5.5 mm Hg, and diastolic blood pressure dropped by 1.8 mm Hg in the 2.4-mg group and by lesser degrees among the patients who received lower doses. There were no significant changes in heart rate, Aronne noted.

Glucose homeostasis was preserved in all groups throughout the 24 weeks.

As with all drugs in the incretin class, gastrointestinal adverse events were common. Severe vomiting occurred in one person in the 1.8-mg group and in four with 2.4 mg. Efforts will be made to reduce that in subsequent trials, Aronne said.

“We have learned over time that going more gradually in titrating up these agents is a better strategy, allowing dose reduction may be a better strategy, and allowing antiemetics temporarily as we increase the dose is a lesson that many have learned doing these trials and of course in our clinical practices,” he commented.

Golubic told Medscape that the recent emergence of potent incretin-based weight loss drugs is “a huge paradigm shift. The prevalence of obesity will be 35% or higher by 2035. Bariatric surgery isn’t feasible for everyone, and it’s very expensive, so we need drugs to provide benefits in terms of lowering weight, glucose, and other cardiometabolic risk factors.”

The full 48-week data for MOMENTUM will be announced in the fourth quarter of 2023.

Aronne has received consulting fees from and serves on advisory boards for Allurion, Altimmune, Atria, Gelesis, Jamieson Wellness, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Jazz Pharmaceuticals, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, Optum, Eli Lilly, Senda Biosciences, and Versanis; has received research funding from Allurion, AstraZeneca, Gelesis, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly; havs equity interests in Allurion, ERX Pharmaceuticals, Gelesis, Intellihealth, Jamieson Wellness, and Myos Corp; and serves on a board of directors for ERX Pharmaceuticals, Intellihealth, and Jamieson Wellness. Golubic has received research support from AstraZeneca.

European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) 2023 Annual Meeting: Presented October 3, 2023.

Miriam E. Tucker is a freelance journalist based in the Washington, DC, area. She is a regular contributor to Medscape. Other work of hers has appeared in the Washington Post, NPR’s Shots blog, and Diabetes Forecast magazine. She is on X @MiriamETucker.

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