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The French government's goal of creating a national pharmaceutical champion got a big boost on Nov. 9 when Paris-based Sanofi-Aventis released promising data on an experimental drug that helps people lose weight and stop smoking. Hailed as a breakthrough in the treatment of obesity, Acomplia blocks the same biological trigger in the brain that gives cannabis smokers the munchies. Data from a two-year trial showed that patients taking Acomplia lost nearly four times as much weight as participants given sugar pills. Analysts expect Acomplia, which will likely be filed for approval in the U.S. and Europe by mid-2005, to be the new company's first blockbuster. Sanofi and Aventis merged earlier this year under French government pressure. EDITED BY Edited by Rose Brady