Takeda and Orexigen’s consumer push is official: the partners announced Monday that their prescription weight-loss medication Contrave, which combines naltrexone and bupropion, is now on pharmacy shelves.
The news rounds out the HCP strategy Takeda hinted at in September, when it revealed that the professional push would include 900 sales reps who would target an array of specialties including OB/GYNs, cardiologists and primary care physicians.
Like Arena’s Belviq and Vivus’s Qsymia, Contrave’s patient support encourages patients to pursue lifestyle changes, such as diet modification and exercise. Contrave also includes a wraparound effort that addresses in-home and out-and-about challenges with links to tools such as a food-delivery service that provides portion-controlled meals and the Healthy Out app, which helps users seek out restaurant menu items based on criteria like low-carb or within a specific calorie limit. Contrave also offers some wardrobe support for changing body shapes by providing a link to a clothing rental business that specializes in sizes 10–32.
A weight-tracking support program called Scale Down also provides a wireless scale that sends texts based on weigh-in results. Access requires filling a prescription at the local pharmacy or through the mail-order Contrave Direct Save program. Takeda and Orexigen offer the typical co-pay card support, but are also offering an additional financial incentive in which increased savings are offered once a patient hits three consecutive refills.
Statistics would indicate demand for prescription weight-loss medications should be high. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted in September that every state is battling obesity, and a report published in June showed that obesity’s physical impact is accelerating, as seen by the growing number of youthful obese patients who have become candidates for knee replacement surgery as a result of their heft.
Yet perceived demand has not propelled the new weight-loss drugs into blockbuster territory. Part of the reason for the slow uptake is that patients, physicians and providers are all on an obesity learning curve. The American Medical Association only recently classified obesity as a disease, which requires reframing how the condition is perceived, from being one caused by a lack of self control to a medical condition that may require outside intervention.
Payers are also finding their way, and Takeda told MM&M in an earlier interview that the company’s payer group will be talking with insurers, and that the drug manufacturer does not anticipate having to wait until 2015 to land as spot-on formularies.