Vivus' Qnexa also proves promising for sleep apnea

Shares of Vivus jumped in after-market trading after the developer unveiled new data that demonstrated its experimental obesity drug Qnexa significantly reduced sleep apnea in a mid-stage trial. Qnexa, which has attracted considerable attention in the weight-loss field, reduced the rate of the breathing disorder by an impressive 69 percent.

"We know that substantial weight loss can significantly improve sleep apnea," said Vivus CEO Leland Wilson. "These Phase II data suggest that Qnexa, if approved for this indication, may be a promising treatment" for the condition.

The 45 obese men and women in the study lost an average of more than 23 pounds, 10 percent of their body weight, after being treated for 28 weeks. During that time the average number of sleep apnea events they experienced plunged from 46 an hour to 14, while patients on a placebo reported a drop from 44 events an hour to 27.

Analysts have been buzzing about Qnexa's blockbuster potential for months. Any drug that can safely reduce weight by an average of 10 percent is likely to grab a big share of what could well be a $10 billion market. If doctors also see Qnexa as an effective treatment for sleep apnea, a condition suffered by some 18 million Americans, Vivus' could well see the drug reach megablockbuster status.

- here's Vivus' release
- check out the Dow Jones story