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Prescription Diet Drugs Update

Last Fall, Vivus botched the commercial launch of its Qsymia prescription weight loss pill and is now fighting off a dissident shareholder, First Manhattan, which wants to replace the company's board of directors and management team. For Arena, the first few weeks of prescription data reported for the early Belviq launch have done nothing to impress anyone.

For the third new diet drug in the mix, producer Orexigen is still conducting a large cardiovascular safety study of its obesity pill Contrave. An interim analysis and results are  expected in the third quarter. If Contrave gets a passing grade from the study, the drug will be resubmitted to the FDA by the end of the year or in early 2014, the company has said.

According to IMS Health, which tracks prescriptions brought to pharmacies and sells the data to stock analysts and drug companies, Belviq was prescribed 1,087 times in its first week on the market, which ended June 14; 1,829 times in the week ending June 21; and 2,222 times in the week ending June 28. That includes scripts that are being given away free or with significant rebates.

By comparison, Xenical, from Roche, the last big weight loss drug to hit the market, managed those kinds of numbers from the very beginning when it went on sale in April 1999. By May 28, 1999, it was being prescribed 40,000 times a week, according to data in a 2000 Morgan Stanley Dean Witter analyst report. For its first month on the market, Xenical was prescribed 131,000 times.

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