Orders Of Magnitude: Opportunity In Obesity

Includes: ARNA, OREX, VVUS
by: William Garner

Vivus (NASDAQ:VVUS) has made progress at the FDA with Qnexa and is valued at approximately $2B. Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ:ARNA), market cap of $252M, has a pharmaceutical partnership and has filed for marketing authorization in the EU with a new chemical entity. Orexigen Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ:OREX) also is in phase III with a market cap approximately an order of magnitude less than that of VVUS: $180M. Another order of magnitude lower in market cap is Lightlake Therapeutics [LLTP.OB] which has retreated to a market cap of $8M, where a share is really an option in perpetuity. The proposed indication, binge eating, is proposed as an intermittent therapy so in theory the regulatory bodies may have fewer safety concerns than the chronic therapies proposed by VVUS, ARNA and OREX.
In thinking about Qnexa's potential launch it is important to remember that the team at VVUS has done it before. They were able to sell over $100M of a drug for ED prior to the launch of Viagra, so they have some lumps on the head from that experience. Look for them to do a better job, if they are not acquired, than other teams making the transition to commercialization as a result. One caveat is that obesity drugs are notoriously difficult to launch. Before approaching $1B in sales Xenical had a rough first year, so in the event of Qnexa's launch I will look for peak sales to occur later than the norm. On the other hand clinical science is teaching us that once a person has lost ten percent of their body weight they are physiologically different. I believe that as this is appreciated by physicians, their willingness to prescribe for obesity will hit an inflection point in the next several years.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I signed a confidentiality agreement with LLTP; however, I have not disclosed any confidential information. I will therefore not trade in the security.

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