Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Market for Vivus' Obesity Drug Qsymia

Qsymia, a new obesity drug, was approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in 2012 and is currently on the market. While Qsymia received a good deal of positive press prior to FDA approval, Qsymia's market results, so far, have been less than robust. One of the reasons for poor market results are FDA restrictions initially attached to the drug. When given approval, the drug could be sold only by specific pharmacies via mail-order.

Qsymia is produced by Vivus, a California based company. The drug is a combination of two existing FDA approved drugs. The drugs are Topiramate and Phentermine. Topiramate gained FDA approval in 1996 and is used, mostly, to treat seizures. And Phentermine  was approved in 1959 as a short term (a few weeks or a few months) treatment for obesity.

Concerning the Qsymia restrictions mentioned above, the FDA recently loosened those restrictions. The drug can now also be sold by "certified retail pharmacies." Indeed, as Peter Tam, the president of Vivus stated, "U.S. health regulators' approval to [let Vivus] sell its diet pill Qsymia through retail pharmacies removed 'a major barrier' to the drug's adoption and paved the way for a direct-to-consumer campaign to be launched later this year."

However, while the FDA's easing restrictions will likely help Qsymia in the marketplace, there are other issues hindering Qsymia's market performance. One of the issues is the concern that obesity drugs, in general, have not shown they  have long-term benefits. And many leaders of health care organizations block access to obesity drugs.

Nevertheless, if the drug is easier to purchase, more people will probably use the drug. And with more usage, Qsymia and other obesity drugs will have the opportunity to demonstrate their safety and effectiveness. And with success, more insurers will cover the drugs and more practitioners will prescribe the drug.

Indeed, there is a market for obesity drugs.  According to experts, there are approximately 78,000,000 obese people in the U.S. And if just 500,000 people are prescribed the drug, at $167.00 per month, the yearly sales revenue would be a billion dollars. And in some eyes, that would make the drug a blockbuster

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