Vivus hopes weight-loss app will fatten up Qsymia sales

Weight-loss apps have become popular, so why not a weight-loss app for a weight-loss drug? Qsymia maker Vivus figures it is worth a try.

The company ($VVUS), which has found the uptake slow on its highly vaunted drug, last week launched a mobile version of the weight-loss support tools already on its website, Medical Marketing & Media reports. The app, which works on Android and Apple products, has a diary, so users can note everything they eat and get informational emails rolled out periodically to give them ideas on how to lose weight over a year's time. 

Rob Janosky, senior director, commercial development at Vivus, told MM&M that its 150 sales reps are explaining the technology to the 25,000 U.S. doctors that they target. He said several thousand users had signed up for the digital tools, explaining, "There's no magic bullet for weight loss." 

A recent study suggested that using apps for weight loss can help, though. According to Reuters, researchers found that overweight and obese adults lost an average of more than 8 pounds when they got coaching from a mobile device in addition to a group weight-loss program. "The number one mechanism through which people lose weight is self-monitoring, just watching what you eat and keeping a record of it," Dr. Goutham Rao, one of the researchers, told the news service. "I'm actually very optimistic that people who are motivated, who can couple the technology with in-person counseling and management are going to be very successful." 

Vivus' management is getting some heat to be successful themselves. They have been criticized by investors who think the rollout and sales have been lackluster for the first weight-loss drug approved by the FDA in more than 10 years. Company execs have said they are taking time to get buy-in from doctors and patients. Vivus has attempted a free trial of the product, but Jefferies analyst Thomas Wei called that "a nonstarter," MM&M points out. 

Some analysts have been adamant that what the company really needs is a partner with the marketing muscle to push the drug harder. In its last earnings report, Vivus reported a widening fourth-quarter loss of $56.7 million, which it pegged to higher marketing costs. 

- read the MM&M story
- here's more from Reuters