Makers of the new obesity drug Qsymia have significantly scaled back their profit expectations after concerns that doctors may prescribe the drug’s ingredients separately rather than the drug itself. Vivus Inc., had estimated profits of as much as $3.6 billion per year, but scaled back its estimate to $1.2 billion, causing Vivus shares to tumble 7.7 percent earlier this week.
Qsymia was one of two new long-term diet drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) earlier this year, making the drugs the first weight loss medications to be approved in 13 years. Qsymia was thought to be the more effective of the two, and the drug is expected to hit the market before the end of the year.
Qsymia is made of two other drugs that have already lost patent protection – topiramate and phentermine. Topiramate is an anti-seizure drug, and phentermine is a stimulate that suppresses appetite and is currently approved for short-term weight loss.
Generic versions of both drugs are currently on the market, and would be less expensive than the new, brand-name Qsymia, especially since generics are more likely to be covered by insurance companies than the more expensive brand name drugs.
Vivus argued that most doctors would prescribe Qsymia over generic topiramate and phentermine because of legal liability if patients experienced side effects. However, that argument was dismissed by analysts, who also referenced a recent clinical trial that showed a combination of the two generic drugs appeared to be just as effective as Qsymia.