Chris Lau, Kapitall: Obesity drug makers still look volatile, but some could go higher this year. Since bottoming at $4.05 in November 2013, shares of biotech obesity stock Arena ( ARNA ) rose steadily. Moderating expectations could keep the stock in a trading range for a while, but there are a number of positive developments that suggest Arena could move higher than its biotech competitors this year. Click on the interactive chart below to price data for these biotech stocks over time. Worldwide advertising Arena’s commercialization partner, Eisai, said that it would market the obesity stock’s diet drug BELVIQ in most markets worldwide. Arena is receiving $60 million from its drug partner to aid in marketing efforts. Read more from Kapitall: 5 Natural Food Stocks With Dividends With billions of dollars more attached to sales results, both partners will be motivated to support effective advertising efforts to drive better profits. Approvals and availability Arena withdrew its Marketing Authorization Application for BELVIQ in the EU last year due to safety concerns from by the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use. Now that Arena shares are trading lower, the market may not be pricing in much chance of an approval in this region. Arena also filed for approval in Switzerland, Mexico and Canada. Progress in the approval for its application will be positive for Arena shareholders. But competitor Orexigen Therapeutics (OREX) is now seeking FDA approval in the US for its own anti-obesity drug, Contrave. A decision is expected by June of this year. And pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline plc (GSK) offers Alli, the only over the counter drug intended to treat obesity in the US and the UK. Arena return: 1 year Click on the interactive chart below to compare annual returns over time. Patience required Biotech stocks like Arena are not suitable investments for everyone. Operational risks exist as drugs like BELVIQ seek approval and are marketed and distributed worldwide.
Uptake in the BELVIQ this year was smaller than expected, but continues to be steady. Greater marketing efforts by the major players, and greater demand for an increasingly overweight population, could accelerate the positive sales in future quarters.Written by Chris Lau, a Kapitall Writer. Disclosure: Author is long ARNA.