MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (AP) ¿ Drugmaker Vivus Inc. said Wednesday its obesity drug candidate Qnexa met key weight loss goals in two late-stage studies.

Patients taking Qnexa, on average, reduced their weight by up to 14.7 percent in one trial, while the drug also prompted improvement in blood pressure and diabetes risk factors. A second study showed weight loss of about 13.2 percent. In both studies, patients taking placebo lost less than 3 percent of their weight.

The studies included more than 3,750 patients taking a mix of three doses and placebo.

Vivus said the results support the company's plan to ask for Food and Drug Administration approval by the end of 2009. That could put the company's application ahead of a key competitor, Orexigen Therapeutics Inc.'s Contrave32. In July, La Jolla, Calif.-based Orexigen said the drug met key weight reduction goals in three late-stage studies.

Orexigen previously said it plans to ask for FDA approval in early 2010.

Elsewhere, San Diego-based Arena Pharmaceuticals Inc. is developing the obesity treatment lorcaserin, which met weight reduction goals in a late-stage study reported in March. There are several other ongoing late-stage studies.

Shares of Vivus surged $3.85, or 56 percent, to $10.76 in premarket trading. The stock has ranged from $2.72 to $9 over the past year.

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