Fat Chance: The Vivus Diet Pill Has Skinny Sales
Two months have passed since Vivus (VVUS) launched the Qsymia diet pill, which is the first new prescription drug to be approved by the FDA in more than a decade, but there are few signs the drug will become the blockbuster some had predicted. New prescription data reveals a mixed picture and Vivus has begun a free promotion for a 14-day starter dose to compensate.
To wit, IMS Health data shows new prescriptions written fell 3.8 percent, to 1,121, for the week ending November 16, while Symphony Health reported a 5.7 percent increase, to 1,165, according to Cowen analyst Simos Simeonidis. The “choppiness continues,” he wrote in an investor note, adding that prescriptions have remained flat for at least a month. This does not include the Thanksgiving holiday, when some become more conscious of their weight.
There is a caveat, however, in deciphering the data. One source has declined to report the number of new prescriptions for the past three weeks or so to the data collectors. And Simeonidis, citing IMS, notes that this one channel accounts for 43 percent of total prescriptions, which means the number of new prescriptions may actually be about 2,000 per week. The presumption is that the source is balking at fees paid by the firms.
Nonetheless, the picture is not encouraging, and a Vivus stock chart mirrors that conclusion. “This is going to take a while, folks,” he writes. “We believe it is very difficult to gauge how this launch will end up using almost any other prior drug launch as a comparison, since this is a case where the actual market has to be formed/built first, and one where specialists and primary care physicians alike have to become first familiar, and then comfortable with the use of these new pharmacotherapies before the actual effectiveness of the launch can be measured.”
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Ed Silverman is the editor of Pharmalot and a contributor to YCharts, which includes the just-released YCharts Pro Platinum for professional investors.