Admittedly, it's too early to call the Qsymia launch a total bust and Vivus has cautioned investors to expect a slow rollout. But based on prescription data collected so far, Vivus is highly unlikely to meet the $25 million in Qsymia sales that analysts have forecast for the fourth quarter -- the first significant barometer of the weight-loss drug's launch.
Vivus shares are down 12% to $15.38 in Wednesday trading.
The Qsymia launch math doesn't look pretty:Doctors have written 5,802 new prescriptions for Qsymia in the five weeks since the drug launched (Sept. 21 through Oct. 19), according to healthcare research firm IMS Health. Vivus has recommended that doctors write two Qsymia prescriptions for each new patient -- one at the low, titration dose and the second at the middle, recommended dose. Not all doctors are following this advice but roughly speaking, dividing total new Qsymia prescriptions in half gives you an estimate for the actual number of patients. Through Oct. 19 -- or roughly one-third of the way through the fourth quarter -- there are approximately 2,901 patients on Qsymia, according to IMS data. That's bad because the fourth-quarter Qsymia consensus sales estimate of $24.5 million (from Bloomberg with 12 analysts contributing forecasts) implies an average of 59,600 patients on the drug.