Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (ARNA) announced that partner Eisai Inc. (ESALY) has increased the sales force of their obesity drug, Belviq, by 50% to approximately 600. With this increase, Eisai expects to reach approximately 92,000 physicians in the U.S.
Apart from generating awareness about Belviq, Eisai is also working on expanding reimbursement for Belviq. Eisai estimates that Belviq coverage in the U.S. has improved. The company estimates that the commercially insured population with coverage for Belviq has crossed 60%.
In the first quarter of 2014, Arena Pharma recorded Belviq sales of $2.9 million (including $0.2 million from the 15-day free trial voucher redemption). Total prescriptions for Belviq increased 31% from the preceding quarter to approximately 77,000.
Arena Pharma and Eisai are evaluating Belviq for additional indications. These include smoking cessation (phase II study ongoing) as well as safety of Belviq when administered in combination with phentermine (12-week pilot study). Additionally, the companies are studying Belviq's effects on diabetes and cardiovascular outcomes (CAMELLIA study).
Arena Pharma and Eisai are leaving no stone unturned to make the drug a success. We are positive on the beefed up sales force for Belviq. The additional promotion should increase awareness about the product and help Belviq sales gain momentum. Arena Pharma’s growth is highly dependent on Belviq, the company’s sole marketed product.
Currently available therapies for obesity include VIVUS Inc.’s (VVUS) Qsymia.
Both Arena Pharma and Eisai currently carry a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Some better ranked stocks in the health care sector include Osiris Therapeutics, Inc. (OSIR) carrying a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).