Qsymia scripts moving up solidly as dust settles in boardroom

It's going to be awhile before anyone can determine whether the Vivus ($VVUS) board shakeup and new CEO Tony Zook's marketing plans have righted the company's course. But as he gets settled, prescription data suggest that things for the Mountain View, CA-based company's flagship product, obesity treatment Qsymia, were already trending in the right direction.

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. And as Seeking Alpha blogger Spencer Osborne points out, with so much uncertainty surrounding the company, those weekly script numbers, though volatile, play a big part in driving share movement.

Still, as Yee notes, it's been a good overall quarter for Qsymia prescriptions, too. The drug has "seen a good uptick in scripts" for the quarter now that it's available in pharmacies like Walgreens and Costo; on July 1, Vivus announced availability of the diet drug at 8,000 pharmacies across the country, a number that had passed 10,000 by the time the company reported its second-quarter earnings in early August. Doctors and patients have responded, with Qsymia jumping 155% in total scripts since the quarter began.

Of course, at the time, the move to bring the drug to retail pharmacies was not enough to satisfy investors, who looked as though they were about to elect a board slate proposed by proxy challenger First Manhattan Co. before the two sides reached a last-minute settlement that ousted CEO Leland Wilson and all but four board members. Now, new chief Zook has a four-point plan of attack for Qsymia that includes boosting patient and physician education and finding a Big Pharma marketing partner, the lack of which has been blamed for sinking the drug's launch in the first place.

But Vivus can't forget about Belviq, Arena's ($ARNA) rival weight-loss med. While a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) holdup on the Qsymia challenger allowed Vivus' drug to get to market first, weak sales prevented it from establishing much of an advantage. And Belviq's most recent script numbers show it's expanding faster, with total scripts up 10% week-over-week and new prescriptions up 9%.

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