Although Vivus weight loss drug Qsymia is getting a cold reception from regulators in the EU, where it is known as Qsvia, the company said the US sales push for the drug is building. Vivus has submitted a request to the FDA for a modified REMS program to expand Qsymia's reach beyond mail-order distribution to include select retail pharmacies which can stock the drug like any other prescription.
Senior Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer Mike Miller told MM&M the difference between having select retailers and general commercial availability is that the selected retail channels could not sell the drug to another pharmacy. The FDA has up to six months to review the application.
It is early to assess Qsymia's market success. but Miller told MM&M that payers are covering around one-third of the prescriptions. Miller attributed the change to a modified perception of what the drug is tackling.
“Payers and employers have now come to the conclusion that obesity is a legitimate medical condition and is costing folks money,” he said, noting that conditions that are linked to obesity, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, come with their own treatments.
The company has been marketing the drug though a staff of 150 reps, which is comprised of a mix of contracted sales force personnel as well as medical science liaisons. Miller said sales reps show up on calls with “iPads that have promotional materials on them that cover both obesity and its risk and the clinical study information for Qsymia.”
He said MSLs, who are an extension of the Vivus medical group, are deployed to “educate physicians and speakers” and typically come armed with a slide deck, training materials and reprints, and that he expects to expand the marketing push next year either organically or through a co-promotion with another sales force.
Miller noted that first-quarter drug sales are generally good across the board, but “for whatever reason, obesity drugs also bounce up,” and acknowledged that it could have something to do with New Year's resolutions. Regardless, he said, Vivus is primed. “We do expect it.”