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Arena Fans Spinning (And Altering) Belviq Prescription Data

Stocks in this article: ARNA VVUS

With Belviq not launching until June 11, second-quarter's reported sales will only reflect wholesaler stocking and not true patient demand, notes Credit Suisse analyst Ravi Mehrota in a research note.

"But Q3 matters, as does TRx data into the quarter, and TRx will need to meaningfully accelerated to meet the quarter," Mehrota adds. "Q3 would seem to need a TRx of at least around 190,000 for the entire quarter, or an average of around 15,000 TRx per week in the quarter."

Areniacs are also trying to calm their frazzled nerves by comparing initial Belviq weekly scripts to those recorded by Vivus (VVUS) when it launched Qsymia last year. Again, this is a mistake because of the different ways in which the competing weight-loss pills hit the market. Until this week, Qsymia distribution was restricted to mail-order pharmacies while Belviq was launched immediately through retail pharmacies. Vivus also didn't offer free drug samples while Arena and Eisai are.

It's no surprise, then, that on a numeric basis, the early Belviq script numbers are higher than what Qsymia achieved in its first few weeks on the market.

What will mattter more for Belviq is what happens to demand once patients are no longer receiving free or discounted drug. With a middling 3 percent, placebo-adjusted weight loss and more than 50 percent of patients failing to lose 5% of their baseline weight at 12 weeks in the drug's pivotal clinical trials, the real concern is that a lot of obese patients won't be taking Belviq for very long, especially if they're forced to pay full price without insurance reimbursement.

Areniacs whine constantly about market manipulation and "trapped" shorts, but in reality, the short thesis on Arena has not changed appreciably since Belviq was approved. The drug doesn't work very well and it's expensive. Sales will disappoint, particularly relative to Arena's already lofty valuation.

It will take a lot more than two weeks of Belviq prescription data to prove the short thesis right or wrong.

-- Reported by Adam Feuerstein in Boston.

Adam Feuerstein writes regularly for TheStreet. In keeping with company editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, although he owns stock in TheStreet. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. Feuerstein appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.
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