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VIVUS, Inc. (VVUS), Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (ARNA): A Belviq Battle

VIVUS, Inc. (NASDAQ:VVUS)Things are beginning to look slightly up for obesity drugmaker VIVUS, Inc. (NASDAQ:VVUS) — mere weeks before a competing drug from Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:ARNA) hits the market.

VIVUS, Inc. (NASDAQ:VVUS) shares soared nearly 10% last Wednesday despite lackluster first quarter results. That’s because CEO Leland Wilson expressed an interest in finding a big pharma partner for the faltering Qsymia, which had a meager sales of $4.1 million in the quarter and led to a $5.8 million charge.

Investors hope that a partner could better market Qsymia, especially since competition is coming next month. How will VIVUS, Inc. (NASDAQ:VVUS) fare when its not the only player in the game?

Belviq battle

Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:ARNA)’s Belviq has Eisai as a partner and finally received the DEA scheduling that delayed its release. Belviq’s launch will trigger a $65 million milestone payment from Eisai to Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:ARNA), and Eisai will take over the U.S. commercialization of the drug from there. .

Belviq may run into a few of the same problems as Qsymia — namely the hesitance of doctors to prescribe the drug and wary insurers not wanting to cover something largely considered optional. Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:ARNA) also won’t have any easy time with European approval. VIVUS, Inc. (NASDAQ:VVUS) shares tanked last fall upon the company’s announcement that a European panel wouldn’t recommend Qsymia for approval. Arena has pulled Belviq from European consideration for now.

Belviq will at least have a broader domestic reach since the drug lacks the Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy, or REMS, that banished Qsymia to mail order pharmacies. But Qsymia’s market is set to widen thanks to an FDA-approved REMS modification that will allow the drug’s sale at certified pharmacies. The potential impact of that modification won’t become clear until the details drop sometime in the third quarter.

Late entrants

Novo Nordisk A/S (ADR) (NYSE:NVO) wants to expand the earnings potential of its bestselling diabetes drug Victoza. The drug already has FDA permission to note the potential for weight loss on Victoza’s label. But the company’s also pursued trials with only weight loss, and not diabetes treatment, as the primary endpoint.

Victoza’s currently in late-stage trials for obesity, and it would be some time before the drug could enter the market under that indication. But it’s not the only weight loss contender waiting in the wings.

Orexigen Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ:OREX)’s weight loss drug Contrave is undergoing an FDA-required cardiovascular safety study. And the company’s talking to the FDA about whether Empatic, its mid-stage obesity drug, will need to undergo similar safety trials.

An exact timeline for Orexigen Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ:OREX)’s run to market is difficult to pin down at this time. But the company has shown an amazing aptitude at getting through procedures quickly. Orexigen Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ:OREX) managed to shave over a year off its trial time using some marketing tactics to enroll patients at an amazing speed.

Foolish final thoughts

Investors looking for obesity drug updates should tune into the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Healthcare Conference this week. VIVUS, Inc. (NASDAQ:VVUS), Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:ARNA), and Orexigen all present on Wednesday. But it’s still a waiting game to see how Belviq performs at launch. Then it’s on to the third quarter details of Qsymia’s REMS modification.

The article Will Obesity Drugs Gain Soon? originally appeared on and is written by Brandy Betz.

Copyright © 1995 – 2013 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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