Weight Loss Drugs Eating Up FDA Approval

The history of weight loss drugs is sketchy at best. But VIVUS Inc. (NASDAQ: VVUS) is making up on all of its recent losses, after shares slid from almost $30 to just under $26.46 at yesterday’s close. The slide was ahead of the FDA decision on final approval of its weight loss drug Qnexa. The drug was given marketing approval and it will be marketed under the name Qsymia.

Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: ARNA) previously won FDA approval for its weight loss drug called Belviq, but VIVUS will get its drug on the market first. Qnexa, or Qsymia, acts as a combination of the appetite suppressant phentermine and the antiseizure drug called topiramate. VIVUS will begin marketing the drug in fourth quarter, while Arena has to wait for DEA classification and likely will not come to market until some time in early 2013.

The drug is expected to reach a blockbuster status ($1 billion or more in annual sales) and will have warnings about heart risks and birth defects. While the warnings seem severe, weight loss also indirectly targets (and can treat) diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke and other ailments tied to obesity.

Orexigen Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ: OREX) is currently studying and developing a weight-loss pill called Contrave with Takeda Pharmaceutical Co.

Today is a weight loss and obesity trifecta as far as traders are concerned. VIVUS is up more than 16% at $30.85 (above the 52-week high of $29.99) in premarket trading, while Arena is down 6.7% at $10.30 versus a 52-week range of $1.23 to $13.50. Orexigen is up about 5% at $7.50 so far this morning.