What Are the Biggest Risks Facing VIVUS Today?

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VIVUS (Nasdaq: VVUS  ) investors may have breathed a sigh of relief after the company's obesity drug, Qsymia, gained approval from the Food and Drug Administration this summer -- but passing this regulatory hurdle was only the beginning of the challenges facing this up-and-coming pharmaceutical company. Shares of VIVUS plunged recently after the company reported lackluster sales from Qsymia's launch. The company will clearly have to deliver better results next quarter, but what are the other risks that VIVUS may have to overcome?

To help answer this question, our senior biotech analyst has created a premium research report on VIVUS that covers the company's opportunities, threats, and both compelling reasons to buy in to the VIVUS story and to stay away from this biotech stock. Below is a small sample from the full report.


  • Branded competition:

    There's undoubtedly a huge market for obesity drugs, but Qsymia isn't the only one trying to help patients shed the pounds. Roche's (OTC: RHHBY) Xenical has been on the market for years. It's never been a really large seller because of unpleasant side effects that are triggered if the patient eats fatty foods.

    Arena Pharmaceuticals' (Nasdaq: ARNA  ) Belviq is likely to be Qsymia's biggest competition. The drug is already FDA approved, but hasn't launched yet because it's waiting for clearance from the Drug Enforcement Agency. In clinical trials, Belviq didn't produce nearly as much weight loss as Qsymia, but Belviq is considered safer.

    Further down the road, there could be competition from Orexigen's (Nasdaq: OREX  ) Contrave. The drug appears to have intermediate weight loss somewhere between Belviq and Qsymia, and the side effect profile falls somewhere between the two as well. The FDA delayed the approval of Contrave because the agency was worried about heart complications and asked for an outcomes trial that measures heart attacks, strokes, and the like. Assuming Contrave passes that trial, it seems likely the FDA would approve the drug. At that point, it'll be the only company that can point to solid data proving that its drug doesn't cause heart problems.

    Even longer term, a private company named Zafgen has a drug called beloranib that investors should keep a keen eye on. The drug has only completed phase 1 trials, but the data there is nothing short of amazing. After just four weeks on beloranib, patients at the lower dose lost 4.7 kg, or 4.5% of their body weight. Patients taking placebo gained 0.2 kg.

    Beloranib is years away from getting on the market, and a lot can happen as it progresses through clinical trials. In fact, it appears that, at least at the higher dose, the drug has side effects that make it intolerable; two of five patients dropped out of the study because of side effects.
  • Post-approval trials:

    VIVUS is required to run 10 post-approval studies as a condition of Qsymia's approval. Any of the trials could theoretically pop up safety signals that could derail the drug. The largest of which -- in terms of size, cost, and risk -- is a cardiovascular outcomes study.

    An increase in heart attacks and strokes would mean the end of Qsymia. While it remains a big overhang on the stock, VIVUS hopes the opposite might happen. Because patients taking Qsymia have lost weight, they'll actually have fewer heart issues than those patients taking placebo.

We hope you enjoyed this just a short excerpt from our new premium research report on VIVUS. To get the full scoop on this company's potential as an investment, click here now to learn more.

Read/Post Comments (4) | Recommend This Article (2)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 17, 2012, at 7:20 PM, Melanie12345 wrote:

    what is wrong with Motley fool? Almost 6 articles on VVUS in less than 1 week. I guess the criminal hedge funds are using motley fool to bash about vivus continuously to keep the price down. This is ridiculous. Different authors from Motley fool are writing article on VVUS everyday. What is your objective Motley Fool? We are writing to the authorities to investigate Motley fool. Stop this now.

  • Report this Comment On November 18, 2012, at 10:22 AM, daytrader0956 wrote:

    never seen MF posting too many articles about a company in 5 days. something is fishy. someone is using the media to manipulate the stock price.

  • Report this Comment On November 19, 2012, at 9:00 AM, PRODOD wrote:

    Biggest real risk to VVUS: Qysmia cannot be sold in Europe. Hope you get around to discussing that issue in the rest of your "premium research"! LOL.

  • Report this Comment On November 21, 2012, at 10:07 AM, sampath2012 wrote:

    Bunch of idiots are writing false articles on VVUS here in MF (not the filthy words). Look at the stock price today (11/21/2012). The name is precise for the MFs in MF.

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