VIVUS, Inc. (NASDAQ:VVUS) has announced that its obesity drug Qsymia will be covered by Express Scripts – the largest US pharmacy benefits manager.
The move will give a larger amount of people access to the drug. With more than 78 million obese adults in the US alone, and the festive season just around the corner, the move has prompted VIVUS, Inc. (NASDAQ:VVUS)’s shares to rise by almost four percent in premarket trade.
Express Scripts Holding Company (NASDAQ:ESRX) provides the formulary design, pharmaceutical contract management, and claims processing for a number of the biggest payers and employers in the country. The company added the anti-obesity drug, Qsymia, as a standard benefit option to its national formulary. Patients will now pay around $50 to $60 for their co-payment for a monthly prescription of Qsymia – roughly one third of the usual retail price.
Peter Tam, President of Vivus, said: “This is a major step forward in expanding access to an important new medication for a population that needs effective pharmacological interventions.”
“Obesity has a devastating impact on our society and contributes significantly to comorbidities such as high blood pressure, type two diabetes, or high cholesterol.”
Qsymia was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in February this year. As one of the only two weight loss drugs to be approved since Roche Holding Ltd. (PINK:RHHBY) (VTX:ROG)’s Xenical in 1999, shares of VIVUS, Inc. (NASDAQ:VVUS) shot up to $23.
However, weaker-than-expected sales of the new diet pill caused investor action against Vivus, as its top shareholders called for a sale of the company. Aetna Inc. (NYSE:AET) then stepped in to say it would provide coverage for both diet pills; Qsymia, and Belviq by Arena Pharmaceuticals.
VIVUS, Inc. (NASDAQ:VVUS)’s shares closed at $13.64 on Wednesday.
John Burback, hedge fund manager of Passport Capital, is the largest shareholder in Vivus. He recently stated in his shareholder letter that Vivus is a compelling candidate for major pharmaceuticals, stating that almost 36 percent of adults and 17 percent of children are obese in the US, based on statistics from the Centers for Diseases Control.