Takeda has 900 reps behind Orexigen's Contrave--but is that investment worth it? Maybe not, RBC Capital Markets' Simos Simeonidis suggested recently in a note to investors. Vivus' Qsymia--with just 50 reps supporting the product--hauled in $14 million in Q3 revenue, compared with just $12.8 million for Contrave.
Nine hundred sales reps are out in the field promoting Orexigen's obesity med Contrave, thanks to the company's marketing partner, Takeda. But for what?
It's been more than 3 years since the FDA approved Vivus' obesity med Qsymia, but the company has yet to start up a required cardiovascular safety trial. And with sales disappointing and debt piling up, that's a problem.
With a trio of new obesity meds on the scene, some industry watchers expected the market to see some serious expansion. But development has been slow--much slower than Qsymia maker Vivus expected--and halving its rep tally is just one step the drugmaker is taking to help ease the pain.
An analysis by AdverseEvents shows the new generation of obesity meds are holding their own, safety-wise. Still, postmarketing data flag some serious cardiovascular and neuropsychiatric side effects that are worth monitoring, the healthcare informatics firm says.
No drugmaker wants a generic challenger for a product it relies on--and certainly not two generics challengers. But in the case of Vivus, which has sued Actavis and now Teva over patent infringement for weight-loss drug Qsymia, the generic interest could be an "incremental positive," one analyst believes.
Critics say Vivus has lacked the marketing muscle to build up its weight-loss med Qsymia ever since it chose to launch without a large commercial partner. And now, the company has chosen to shrink its salesforce by a third, with about 50 reps headed for the door.
Weak Qsymia sales have been the all-important issue for Vivus since the highly anticipated obesity therapy stumbled out of the gate, inspiring an all-out proxy war that wreaked havoc on the company's boardroom. And the California company isn't about to cede what market share it does have to Actavis--at least, not without a fight.
Orexigen Therapeutics is on the verge of FDA approval for its obesity drug, after several long years of delay and frustration. But despite its late-to-the-party status--it's the third weight-loss pill in a new generation of treatments--it may end up winning the popularity contest.
After a botched launch for obesity drug Qsymia, a bitter proxy war, a mass exodus of its directors and management and a continued sales struggle, the last thing Vivus needs is a generic threat. But thanks to Actavis, that's exactly what it's getting.