Are Americans Giving Up on Diet Pills?

First prescription obesity drug in more than a decade struggles to sell

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 2, 2013 12:34 PM CDT

(Newser) – Just a few years ago, a drug company CEO predicted anti-obesity pills could rival the sales of drugs like Lipitor. Instead, the first prescription diet pill to arrive in 13 years is barely selling, the New York Times reports. Qsymia maker Vivus spent $45 million to promote the drug in the first quarter, and scored sales of just $4.1 million. Meanwhile, the company's stock price has dropped from $29 to $12.41, and its biggest shareholder wants to overhaul the board and management.

It's not just Qsymia that's having trouble. No prescription drug to battle obesity has ever reached $1 billion in sales, the lowest figure to qualify a drug as a "blockbuster," the Times notes. For one thing, users tend quickly to drop the drugs because they don't lose enough weight: Qsymia users, for instance, dropped just 7.8% of their weight in a year. Others are concerned about health risks associated with diet pills; some fear Qsymia could cause birth defects. What's more, only a third of private insurers cover Qsymia, and Medicare Part D currently doesn't include weight-loss meds. Without coverage, you could pay $150 a month for Qsymia. "Most people don’t find that amount of money is worth it for that amount of weight loss," says an expert.

Bottles of Qsymia.
Bottles of Qsymia.   (AP Photo/Vivus Pharmaceuticals Inc.)
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