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Second patient dies in Zafgen obesity drug trial

A second patient died in a late-stage trial of Zafgen Inc.’s experimental obesity treatment, the company said in a statement Wednesday. As a result, the company lost more than half its value.

The company said that the patient receiving the drug died from a blockage in an artery in the lung, according to Reuters.

“We are investigating the circumstances around this event,” Chief Executive Officer Thomas Hughes said in the release. The company has been chatting with the Food and Drug Administration “while we determine the next steps with the beloranib program.”

The clinical trail for the drug beloranib is being tested for use with a rare genetic eating disorder called Prader-Willi syndrome, expects to report the study’s results from the first quarter.

“Our thoughts are with the patient and their family at this time,” Hughes said in the press release.

Zafgen’s shares declined as much as 63 percent and reached a record low of $5.93 on Wednesday morning since it was unclear if the company will continue to test the drug.

The Boston-based company said that a patient had died in the trial in October as well, though the cause was reportedly unknown. However, UPI reported that the cause of death was respiratory failure due to pulmonary emboli.

The trial was placed under a partial clinical hold by the FDA, citing that previous blood clotting in both completed and ongoing studies. A lawsuit was filed that month claiming Zafgen withheld information about adverse events experienced by patients in the trial, UPI reported. The company was also accused of alleging the first death in the trial was a patient being treated with beloranib, not the placebo.

The two deaths in the 108-patient study came after some small successful studies. The most severe side-effect was bruising where experts gave patients the injection.

The drug helps the body metabolize fat and has been tested in two other types of obesity, Bloomberg Business reported. Prader-Willi syndrome gives patients a huge appetite and leads to chronic overeating. It can also cause delayed development an has a high rate of mortality linked to obesity, according to the company.

About Meredith Rodefer

Meredith Rodefer
Meredith Rodefer is a freelance writer, who focuses on anything from lifestyle blogging to hard news, and dancer. Beyond Youth Independent, she has written for sites such as Natmonitor.com, CheekyChicago.com and FamilyFocusBlog.com. Contact Meredith: meredith.rodefer@youthindependent.com