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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

VIVUS, Inc. (NASDAQ:VVUS) Beats Arena Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ARNA) With The Launch Of Its Obesity Drug


VIVUS, Inc.(NASDAQ:VVUS) has declared the commercial release of Qsymia, a weight-loss pill, beating its competitor Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc.(NASDAQ:ARNA) to first reach the bulging waistbands of overweight Americans.

Qsymia hits the shelves of pharmacies at an advantageous time, coming just when doctors treating obesity are gathering in San Antonio later this week on the occasion of Obesity Society annual meet-up. Both Arena and Vivus are predicted to have a presence at the conference but only Vivus will require doctors to prescribe after returning home to their patients.

Arena and Eisai, its marketing partner are expected to release Belviq early next year.

Vivus has previously stated pricing for Qsymia, ranging from $4 to $5 each day depending on the strength of the dosage. It was at par with the expectations of investors.

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Qsymia involves combination of two drugs, topiramate and phentermine. These are available as generics for a combined price of $1 to $3 each day. Investors have been debating on whether doctors will choose to recommend Qsymia to their patients or prescribe its generic components.

Cory Kasimov, JP Morgan biotech analyst said in a recent research report that feedback from doctors points out generic substitution is not likely to be widespread considering the associated accountability of either prescribing or dispensing the generic components individually as long as the product is not cost prohibitive.

In August, Thomas Wei, analyst of Jefferies had downgraded Vivus, quoting concerns that doctors will choose to recommend the generic components of Qsymia rather than the branded product.

Qsymia is now available in the US. Analysts and investors are likely to keep a track of daily and weekly prescription sales monitors by independent services like Wolters Kluwer and IMS Health.

Shares of Vivus remained unchanged at $22.08 in Monday trading. Shares of Arena were up 6 cents. Since both stocks have plunged since their respective weight-loss drugs had won approval this summer, investors are uncertain about the commercial prospects of obesity drugs.  

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