Vivus, a go-it-alone marketer with flailing obesity drug Qsymia, is discovering the joys of buddying up.
Both Vivus and Arena marketing partner Eisai have partnered with healthcare benefits provider Aetna, which will integrate rival obesity drugs Qsymia and Belviq into a weight-loss lifestyle pilot program.
Vivus says it's laying off 20 staffers to cut its losses as the obesity drug Qsymia continues to flounder. Launched last year, Qsymia brought in just $6.4 million for the third quarter, far from the lofty sales projected as the drug neared FDA approval. And with the drug still struggling for a market foothold, analysts worry that Vivus will have a hard time attracting a partner that can apply its marketing savvy to the job.
Analysts promised a battle of obesity drugs between Arena's Belviq and Vivus' Qsymia. But in marketing partner Eisai, Arena has a weapon Vivus lacks--and that weapon is about to get bigger. The Japanese company plans to add more than 200 sales reps to its army by December, doubling its size since the drug hit the market this June.
According to a research note from analyst Michael Yee at RBC Capital Markets, total Qsymia prescriptions for the weight-loss drug are up 7% week-over-week to 10,019, with new prescriptions up 6% week-over-week to 8,133.
Vivus announced second-quarter losses much worse than anyone expected. It took the first public comments from incoming CEO Tony Zook to sustain hopes for a turnaround.
The agreement will expand the board to 11 members from 9, with First Manhattan installing 6 directors as four Vivus directors step down. F ormer AstraZeneca exec Tony Zook, backed by FMC, is expected to round out the board, taking the place of current CEO Leland Wilson.
The company's rebel shareholder sued Vivus for postponing its annual meeting, accusing the board of directors of stalling to keep themselves in office.
Instead of tallying votes today to see if FMC will be installing any of its nominees to the board, Vivus has reported First Manhattan to the SEC for issuing allegedly false statements, a move that has delayed the meeting until Thursday.
The eleventh hour for Vivus is drawing near. Its annual stockholder meeting is Monday, at which time it will find out if proxy brawler First Manhattan Co. has successfully instated its proposed slate of 9 new board members. Vivus has been fighting that effort, and in a last-ditch attempt to stave off that possibility, Thursday it encouraged shareholders to vote by telephone or Internet, reminding them they can even switch votes they have already cast for First Manhattan's nominees.