Cheeky: Unhappy Investor IDs CEO For Vivus

Some more spice has been added to the drama surrounding Vivus (VVUS), one of two fledgling drugmakers scrambling to sell the latest crop of prescription diet pills. Its largest shareholder, which is waging a proxy fight over allegations that mismanagement has torpedoed what should have been a promising product launch, plans to hire a former AstraZeneca (AZN) exec as Vivus CEO if its nominees are elected to the board.

First Manhattan, which holds 9.9 percent of Vivus stock, says Tony Zook, who had been executive vp for global commercial activities at AstraZeneca, is set to run Vivus after the July 15 annual meeting. Zook, you may recall, left the big drugmaker this past January as part of a shake-up instituted by AstraZeneca ceo Pascal Soirot, who arrived from Roche last fall and has been overhauling operations ever since (see earlier Pharma news).

VVUS Chart

VVUS data by YCharts

The pronouncement comes one week after First Manhattan, which has lambasted Vivus for failing to find a commercial partner to launch its Qsymia pill in the US, warned that a recruiter had been retained to find a ceo (covered in earlier Pharma news).

Interestingly, Vivus recently hired another former AstraZeneca exec - Richard Fante, who had been US president and North America CEO and regional vp for the Americas - to help evaluate commercial options for the diet drug. He was retained in response to pressure from First Manhattan.

As noted previously, First Manhattan has been frustrated with the Vivus management and board as the stock price has plunged by more than half – from $29 on the day after Qsymia was approved a year ago to $12 and change today – due to a disappointing number of prescriptions. Vivus chose a go-it-alone strategy with relatively few drug reps to call on doctors and has also battled reluctance among insurers to provide coverage.

To read the remainder of this article, go to Pharmalot.

Ed Silverman, a contributing editor of YCharts, is the founder and editor of Pharmalot. He previously reported on the pharmaceutical industry and other business topics for the Star-Ledger of New Jersey, New York Newsday and Investor’s Business Daily. He can be reached at You can also request a demonstration of YCharts Platinum.

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