Vivus (VVUS) filed a form 8K with the SEC Tuesday that outlines some important points for Vivus as a whole, as well as the anti-obesity sector in general. Vivus has an anti-obesity drug already in the market, and is getting ready to launch an erectile dysfunction drug in the months ahead.
Within the 8k, Vivus published several slides discussing company goals, and in some cases performance to date. With the anti-obesity drug Qsymia there are a couple of interesting developments. Vivus has disclosed that the estimated sales of Qsymia for Q3 are 108,000 prescriptions. This number tracks pretty close to the sales numbers reported by IMS Health, and below the projections that have been outlined by Symphony Health.
In essence, if the actual sales numbers stay at 108,000, the Symphony Health estimate (120,000) will be too high. For those tracking the anti-obesity space, this information could be of value. This is especially true for an equity like Arena Pharmaceuticals and its drug Belviq. IMS Health and Symphony have had a gap between their respective estimates for quite some time and as yet, there has been no confirmation by the company as to exactly how accurate either of these estimates are.
If Qsymia script sales are at 108,000 it would imply that the company will bring in about $7 million in revenue from sales if a net number of $65 per prescription sold is used. This $7 million figure is well below analyst estimates that averaged upwards of $20 million. Qsymia sales will see a boost quarter over quarter of 33%, but the essentially flat trajectory since August is concerning.
A big segment of the growth we saw in Q3 was attributable to Qsymia being made available in retail pharmacies. We saw the sales spike substantially in early July, but since then the trajectory has flattened out substantially. This could point to a Q4 that shows growth as flattening out.
Vivus did disclose that there are now about 26,000 retail outlets that are certified to sell Qsymia. The initial retail push, beginning in July, had about 10,000 pharmacies included.
A big push that can be a driver of anti-obesity drugs is insurance coverage. If the out-of-pocket cost to consumers can be minimized, it bodes well for creating consumer pull on these products. Information regarding insurance within this sector has been tough to come by, so the slide that Vivus included in its presentation is welcomed news. During the last three months Vivus has been able to get insurance coverage up from 35% of covered lives to 38%. While it may not seem like a lot, this progress is promising. Investors in Arena (ARNA) and Orexigen (OREX) will want to monitor this as well, because if one drug is covered, it is likely that all will be treated equally by an insurer.
Vivus outlined what appears to be a sound strategy regarding Europe. The company is making efforts to utilize the FDA required CVOT study to also satisfy Europe. Vivus will, in the near term, begin a 90-day consult process with Europe to get a better grasp on expectations there.
The key here for Vivus seems to be continuing to try to partner Qsymia. If Vivus can land a partner it will take some stresses off of the company financially. Sales of the erectile dysfunction drug can give the company some needed breathing room in the near and mid term, but the story of Vivus seems tied to getting traction with Qsymia. Stay tuned.
Additional disclosure: I have no position in Orexigen or Vivus.