Are Americans Giving Up on Diet Pills?
First prescription obesity drug in more than a decade struggles to sell
By Matt Cantor, Newser User
Posted Jul 2, 2013 12:34 PM CDT
Bottles of Qsymia.   (AP Photo/Vivus Pharmaceuticals Inc.)

(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.

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Showing 3 of 6 comments
mbezzan
Jul 2, 2013 4:40 PM CDT
Its not that the pills don't work, it is just a combination of 2 old generic drugs, when I prescribe them, I use prescribe the individual drugs for weight loss, it saves the patient 70%. Why go for the name brand
fractal
Jul 2, 2013 2:36 PM CDT
Lets not forget all the unpleasent side effects of the diet pills. Yuck.
RalphAllen
Jul 2, 2013 1:42 PM CDT
A new FDA approved diet pill called Belviq just went on the market. People who take Belviq with diet and exercise were 2 times more likely to lose 5% body weight and 3 times more likely to lose 10% body weight than the people who just did diet and exercise alone. The label states that if you do not lose 5% of your body weight in 12 weeks then consider stopping. Those that do respond in 12 weeks go on to lose over 10% of their body weight in one year. Losing 22 pounds for a 220 pound man is life changing. So comments about average weight loss are misleading and incorrect since over 45% of the patients lost a significant amount of weight. Belviq makes you more likely to succeed because it helps you feel full more quickly, reduces cravings, and helps control "food issues". It is not a 'magic pill', it merely helps people willing to diet and exercise more likely to succeed. Belviq has a second mode of action to reduce blood sugar which may end up preventing diabetes in many cases. Diabetics and pre-diabetics who took Belviq, regardless of weight loss, saw their blood sugar numbers drop by double digit percentages. IE HbA1c -0.9 to -1.2 and fasting glucose feel -27. The cost of medications to reduce HbA1c levels exceeds the cost of Belviq. (seeArena's BloomDN phase III trial) These reductions in diabetic symptoms plus the weight loss at the same time makes Belviq a medical bargain. With an estimated 40 million new cases of Diabetes expected over the next 10 years at a cost of over $400 billion per year to the US Health Care System, and the associated heart disease, strokes, blindness and amputations, any tool that will prevent this preventable disease from ballooning is a good tool to have. People who are borderline diabetic may benefit a great deal from Belviq whether they lose a lot of weight or just a little.