Vivus Inc. has released a diet pill called Qsymia – one of only two diet pills (the other being Belviq) to be released in the last 13 years. Vivus applied intense pressure on the FDA earlier this year to approve the obesity-targeted drug for for the two-thirds of Americans who have a body fat percentage high enough make them obese.
The problem? Qsymia shares were down 24 percent on Tuesday. Since their launch mid-September, they’ve only seen $41,000 in sales. Analysts were expecting around $310,000 by this point.
Vivus Inc. Chief Commercial Officer Mike Miller stated his concern over the pill’s insurance coverage.
“About 30 percent of patients chose not to fill after receiving a [Qsymia] prescription due to cash outlay,” he said. “The average retail price for the patient for 30 days or the recommended dose is approximately $160. Currently, we’re seeing one out of five [patients] being covered by third-party insurance with an average co-pay of $62.”
So far it seems reimbursement is going to be a large obstacle, but it’s still decently early in the drug’s selling stages to make that determination. There’s still a chance that Qsymia may overcome these obstacles and reach sales quotas the long run.
During the month of September, 656 Qsymia prescriptions were shipped from pharmacies. And during the week of October 26, that number increased drastically to 5,560. Simos Simeonidia, Cownen & Co. analyst, says insurance agencies will begin reimbursing obesity and weight loss drugs in the next few months following the actions of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
“We continue to believe that in order for Qsymia to become a blockbuster, Vivus needs the help of a big pharma partner,” he said. Vivus’ competitor, Bleviq by Arena, is scheduled to launch at the beginning of 2013. Orexigen is plotting a resubmission for the marketing strategies against competing products.