Weight-loss drug Qsymia pushing for more sales

One of the Vivus' latest tactics is to market its drug straight to consumers. Starting this fall, you'll see Qsymia ads in magazines and on television. But it may still be too expensive for some.

Even in the age of speciality gyms and juice cleanses, plenty of people are more than willing to pop a pill just to drop a few sizes. There's still a demand for diet drugs.

"It is quite strong. Everyone's looking for a silver bullet for weight loss and particularly for obesity," says Geoffrey Joyce, who teaches pharmaceutical economics at the University of Southern California.

Unlike other prescription weight loss drugs, Qsymia, made by Vivus, has a big hurdle. It has a component of Fen-Phen. And even though it's different, Joyce says some doctors won't be comfortable prescribing the drug.

"Particularly from more knowledgable physicians, they know there are elevated cardiovascular risks and other types of risks with Fen-Phen," he says, "I do think this did pass clinical trials, but I still think there's lots of skepticism."

One of the company's latest tactics is to market the drug straight to consumers. Starting this fall, according to a company press release, you'll see Qsymia ads in magazines and on television. That's sort of smart.

"Now whether when people go to the pharmacy and find out it costs $200, whether they indeed fill the prescription would remain to be seen," says James Hughes, who teaches economics at Bates College.

A 30-day supply of the drug  at CVS starts at $145. So the company earlier this month started offering two-week-free trials. Hughes says that only takes you so far.

"I wouldn't expect that to be the kind of game changer that widespread insurance coverage would be," Hughes says.

The company didn't respond to requests for an interview. But a recent company press release says it's working to get more insurance companies to cover the drug. Hughes says insurers may wait another six months to a year to see how great a demand there is for the drug, and whether it works. 

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