About 14,500 people have filled prescriptions for the new diet pill Qsymia since it hit the market in September, and the number of prescriptions are growing each month. Qsymia became the first weight loss pill to be sold in the U.S. since 1999. It is intended to be a lifelong treatment to help overweight and obese people manage their weight.
Qysmia is a combination phentermine, a stimulant that acts as an appetite suppressant, and topiramate, a drug used to treat seizures. Analysts speculate that it could become blockbuster drug within a few years, generating sales of $1 billion or more. However, financial experts are divided as to whether early sales indicate success or failure.
Qsymia maker Vivus Inc. blames sluggish early sales on high co-pays and limited insurance coverage. The company is working with insurance companies to make Qsymia a standard option to their line of health benefits. Prescriptions began to pick up after Vivus began offering a two-week supply of Qsymia to patients free of charge. While this move helped boost sales, it could hurt the company’s revenue, some experts say.
Cowen & Co. analyst Simos Simeonidis believes that prescription numbers are still surprisingly low for the new diet pill and that the best way for Vivus to become a top seller is by teaming up with a larger drug company to help promote it.
Last year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Qsymia and another long-term weight loss pill, Belviq. Qsymia was the first to hit the market last fall. Belviq is expected to be available sometime in early 2013.