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Diet Drugs Battle: Will Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (ARNA)/Eisai Inc. (ESALF.PK) Belviq's Aggressive Marketing Quash Weakened VIVUS, Inc. (VVUS)'s Qsymia

6/24/2013 10:47:04 AM

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LONDON, UK (GlobalData), 25 June 2013 - Entering the US obesity drugs market nine months later than Vivus’ more effective Qsymia, Arena/Eisai’s Belviq would, on the surface, appear to be the weaker runner in what is currently a two horse race. However, according to an analyst with research and consulting firm GlobalData, Belviq’s formidable marketing power may ultimately prove the key factor in deciding the market’s dominant product.

Since last September’s launch, Qsymia has disappointed Vivus and its investors with underwhelming sales totalling $8m. Eager to avoid a similar fate, Belviq’s producers have made a concerted effort to reach the industry figures that will decide the drug’s fate.

“Arena and Eisai have taken a much more sophisticated marketing strategy than Vivus, allocating a large 200-member sales force to target 26,000 high prescribers, including primary care physicians and specialists in endocrinology and bariatrics,” says Rebecca Wong, MSc, GlobalData's Analyst covering Cardiovascular & Metabolic Diseases.

Wong states that as Belviq begins to reach prescribers and take a share of the market, Vivus has essentially been forced to find a Big Pharma partner:

“Having Eisai as a large marketing partner has allowed for the sponsorship of obesity treatment seminars and courses for physician education. Furthermore, direct-to-consumer ads will likely be used to reach out to the target demographic, as well as to those in the pre-diabetes space – a market approximately four times the size of the obesity space,” says the analyst.

In clinical trials, the highest dose of Qsymia has been shown to induce an average placebo-adjusted weight loss of 9-11% – approximately twice that of Belviq, at 4-5%. But while Vivus’ drug has been proven to be more effective, potential side effects are more severe.

GlobalData’s analyst believes that the strategy of only continuing to prescribe Qsymia and Belviq to those who lose at least 5% of their weight within the first 12 weeks of initiating treatment could backfire in the longer term, if patients do not continue to see results.

“As an alternative,” says Wong, “physicians may prescribe Qsymia in cases where patients are unresponsive to Belviq, and vice versa. As such, there may be enough room for both drugs to reach their respective target patient populations.”

- Commentary provided by Rebecca Wong, MSc, GlobalData's Analyst covering Cardiovascular & Metabolic Diseases.


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