VIVUS, Inc., Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Shares Jump on Insurance Coverage for Fat Pills

Published: Nov 23, 2012

Health insurer Aetna Inc (AET.N) said it would provide coverage for diet pills of Vivus Inc (VVUS.O) and Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc (ARNA.O), sending the obesity drugmakers' shares up. The decision by the third-largest health insurer to provide coverage for Vivus' Qsymia and Arena's Belviq may boost adoption of the diet pills. "This is probably the simplest business decision on their plate in all of 2012, because to not reimburse this would have put them in the crosshairs of every single healthcare decision maker in the United States," WBB Securities LLC analyst Stephen Brozak said. "Everyone acknowledges that we have a pandemic obesity problem, and to not be a part of a solution even if its a marginal solution, means you are part of the problem," he added. Vivus faced problems as it reported lackluster initial sales of Qsymia earlier this month, citing a lack of reimbursement coverage. Chief commercial officer Mike Miller said on a post-earnings conference call on November 6 that about 30 percent of patients chose not to fill after receiving Qsymia prescription due to cash outlay.

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