UPDATED: ScinoPharm will make API for blockbuster hopeful Qsymia

Vivus ($VVUS) snagged FDA approval for Qsymia, the much-anticipated diet drug analysts say could rake in billions over the next 5 years. Also looking to cash in is Taiwanese CMO ScinoPharm, which has signed on to manufacture one of the drug's APIs.

ScinoPharm didn't disclose the terms of the partnership, but the CMO will produce topiramate, one of Qsymia's active ingredients, for Vivus. ScinoPharm started producing the API two years ago for use in epilepsy treatments, the company said, but teaming up with Vivus and its potential blockbuster will likely be far more profitable.

The partnership comes just in time, too: ScinoPharm has just expanded its manufacturing capacity to include a plant in mainland China.

Pharma watchers are bullish about Qsymia's future. Analysts project Vivus' drug could pull in sales of $1.2 billion by 2016, FiercePharma reports, and the burgeoning obesity market in the U.S. promises a big payday if Vivus can properly manage the drug's launch.

Vivus will have to contend with Arena Pharmaceuticals' ($ARNA) Belviq, another recently approved weight loss treatment, and the companies are a study in contrasting approaches. While Arena is using its in-house production and marketing operations to launch Belviq, Vivus is going all-contract, recruiting ScinoPharm for API production and using contract sales firm PDI to market Qsymia.

- read ScinoPharm's statement
- get background from FiercePharma
- check out Outsourcing-Pharma's take

Correction: This story implied that topiramate was the sole API in Qsymia. The drug also contains the appetite suppressant phentermine. We regret the error.

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