Vivus Launches U.S. Sales of Obesity Drug

Vivus hopes to gain early traction with doctors before rival Arena Pharmaceuticals launches its weight-loss pill in early 2013.

This article published with permission from The Burrill Report.

Vivus has initiated the commercial launch of its weight-loss pill Qsymia, beating rival Arena Pharmaceuticals for the distinction of marketing the first new prescription weight loss drug in over a decade.

Qsymia will be available through select pharmacies, including CVS and Walgreens, and will be priced at $4 to $6 per day, depending on the dosage strength.

Qsymia’s earlier-than-expected launch is a major victory for Vivus, which may gain some early advantage over Arena in the time between September and Arena’s anticipated Belviq launch in early 2013.

The need for new tools in the fight against obesity was underlined by a new report, published by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It found that the number of obese adults, along with obesity-related diseases and health care costs, could rise dramatically in the United States over the next 20 years.

The report also found that while nearly one-third of adults in the United States are already obese, that segment could rise to above 44% of adults by 2030. And the direct medical costs associated with treating preventable obesity-related diseases are estimated to increase by $48 billion to $66 billion annually by 2030 and that the loss in economic productivity related to those diseases could be between $390 and $580 billion annually by then.

Vivus hopes that Qsymia can serve to help curb the growing numbers.

“Qsymia is the first ever combination treatment made available, and today’s introduction marks a new beginning for many patients who struggle with obesity,” said Peter Tam, Vivus’ president. “We are excited about making this new treatment option available to patients because Qsymia is the first FDA-approved oral medication that has been shown to achieve an average weight loss of 10% in obese patients when used in conjunction with a lifestyle modification program.”

The recommended daily dose of Qsymia contains 7.5 milligrams of phentermine and 46 mg of topiramate extended-release. Qsymia is also available at a higher dose for select patients.

Results from the two trials of the drug showed that after one year of treatment with the recommended and highest daily dose of Qsymia, patients had an average weight loss of 6.7% and 8.9%, respectively, over treatment with placebo. Approximately 62% and 69% of patients lost at least 5% of their body weight with the recommended dose and highest dose of the drug, compared with about 20% of patients treated with placebo.

On September 21, Vivus warned, however, that it expects an unfavorable recommendation from the European Medicines Agency regarding its weight-loss drug. Shares of Vivus tumbled 11% on the news. A formal decision on Qsymia, marketed as Qsiva in Europe, is not expected until October.

Copyright 2012 Burrill & Company. For more life sciences news and information, visit http://www.burrillreport.com.