Vivus (VVUS) announced today that its highly anticipated weight loss drug, Qsymia, is now available on the market. The news came as a bit of a surprise to some who have been following the battle between Vivus and Arena Pharmaceuticals (ARNA). In an 8K filed with the SEC, Vivus announced a new website about the drug, as well as the fact that Qsymia is available for doctors to prescribe.
Early in the battle between Vivus and Arena, the early victory went to Arena. Arena was able to garner FDA approval for its Belviq product first. The second victory now belongs to Vivus as it gets launched first while Arena is still awaiting final DEA write-ups and cannot really go to market until that is accomplished.
For Vivus, the first to market victory may be quite compelling. It has been over a decade since a weight loss drug has received FDA approval, and the market is ripe to take on the issues of obesity. With this victory Vivus can go out and market its product virtually uncontested for what could be a few months prior to Arena arriving on the scene. There are distinct advantages in that.
- Doctors and patients alike have been eager for a solution. At the moment the only solution is Qsymia by Vivus.
- Vivus will get the first crack at those who are desperate for help and a solution. If Vivus works for these people, they will be more likely to stay with it vs. switching to another drug.
- Word of mouth can get viral, and I do not mean that in a bad medical way. If people want a solution they typically want it now. Early success with Qsymia can create a market that will blossom even further.
- Arena could be at least 3 months away from the market. This means that the salesforce has a disadvantage over the salesforce of Vivus. Vivus has a product to offer. Arena only has the promise of a product.
Now before I get scores of emails telling me about efficacy, risks, the combination of two generics, pregnancy risks, etc., stop for a moment and think about what it means to be first to market. It is huge, and there is no denying that. While I do care about health, well being, risks, and all of those other things, this is an investment. Those things are all important, but in investing, the best product in the world sometimes does not deliver investing success.
The reality is that within a few months there will be two products on the market. Vivus got a good head start, and if its sale force is good at its job, they can reap some serious benefits from the lead they now have. Arena and its marketing staff have to contend with some hurdles that did not exist last Friday. If the Arena marketing staff is good, they will be able to catch up.
This does not change the dynamic of the overall size and scope of the potential market for these companies. That market is huge, and both companies can be successful in the long term.
If you are invested in Vivus, you can now look forward to actual sales data that should help the bottom line. If you are invested in Arena, you can garner some important information about what types of numbers a weight loss product can generate.
Simply stated, this sector, prescription weight loss, is certainly getting interesting. The next few months will define whether Vivus and Arena see modest success, or hit grand slams. Stay tuned.
Disclosure: I am long ARNA.
Additional disclosure: I have no position in Vivus