Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Market for Obesity Drugs

Generally, there are three approaches to weight loss and weight management. They are lifestyle modification, including diet and exercise, bariatric or weight loss surgery, and obesity drugs. While each approach can be successful, each approach has its associated problems. Changes in lifestyle are hard to adhere to long term. Bariatric surgery is usually advocated for those who are severely obese, while giving rise to serious complications. And obesity drugs have often produced disappointing results, and caused medical problems including cardiovascular issues and thoughts of suicide.

However, two obesity drugs, Qsymia and Belviq, have recently gained FDA approval. And another obesity drug, Contrave, is expected to be approved by the FDA this year. That being the case, it might make sense to look at how the market, especially the forces of supply and demand, perceive these drugs.
The three companies producing these drugs are Arena Pharmaceuticals, the maker of Belviq, Vivus, the maker of Qsymia, and Orexigen Therapeutics, the maker of Contrave. For Qsymia and Belviq, the European health authorities are presenting a road block to overseas sales by either refusing to approve the drug, as in the case of Qsymia, or indicating that they, the authorities, might not approve the drug in the future, as in the case of Belviq.

Further, in the U.S., Qsymia and Belviq are to be regulated at the state and federal levels because the drugs are deemed to have addictive qualities. Qsymia has been assigned a controlled substance schedule designation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Belviq is also likely to get a DEA designation.

Still, “the obesity drug market is expected to be in the billions of dollars.” And Orexigen’s obesity drug, Contrave, is expected to be approved without a DEA controlled substance designation. Since Contrave is considered to be less harmful than Qsymia or Belviq, Contrave might be the marketing winner. At any rate, we may know soon, since Orexigen has worked with the FDA to accelerate the Contrave review process. And with an expected successful review, the drug will be approved, then put on the market.

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