NEW YORK (AP) – An analyst slashed his sales estimates for Vivus Inc.’s obesity drug Qsymia, saying many physicians may prescribe Qsymia’s ingredients for their patients instead of the drug itself.
Analyst Thomas Wei said he now believes a significant number of physicians will prescribe the two drugs that comprise Qsymia instead of giving their patients Qsymia itself, and that will cut into the drug’s sales. Wei said he now thinks sales of Qsymia will peak at $1.2 billion a year, far below his previous estimate of $3.6 billion per year.
The Food and Drug Administration approved Qsymia on July 17. The agency has approved two new long-term weight loss pills this year, and Qsymia is seen as the more effective of the two. Vivus plans to start selling Qsymia later in 2012.
Qsymia is made of two older drugs that have already lost patent protection: topiramate and phentermine. Topiramate is an anticonvulsant, sold by Johnson & Johnson as Topamax, and it makes people feel fuller after eating. Phentermine is a stimulant that suppresses the appetite, and has long been used for short-term weight loss.
Wei said Vivus has argued that most doctors will prescribe Qsymia instead of generic topiramate and phentermine because of concerns about their legal liability if patients who take the generic drugs experience side effects. However Wei said he has become skeptical of the company’s reasoning. He added the generics will also be less expensive and a combination of the two generic drugs appeared to be as effective as Qsymia in one clinical trial.
“There is a strong motivator for physicians to prescribe the two generics since branded Qsymia is unlikely to be covered by payors and the two generics will be more affordable for patients,” he wrote in a note to clients.
Date: August 17, 2012
Source: Associated Press
Filed Under: Drug Discovery