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Anti-Obesity Drug Market a Major Focus as Obesity in the U.S. Adds More to Healthcare Costs Than Smoking

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - Mar 6, 2013) - The anti-obesity drug market garnered major attention in 2012 after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first new prescription weight loss drug in over a decade. Recent studies have shown that obesity in the U.S. now adds more to health care costs than smoking. Five Star Equities examines the outlook for companies in the Biotechnology Industry and provides equity research on Arena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. ( NASDAQ : ARNA ) and VIVUS, Inc. ( NASDAQ : VVUS ).

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The number of Americans who are considered obese, a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or higher, has tripled since 1960, while those considered morbidly obese (BMI above 40) has increased six fold. A study completed by researchers from the Mayo Clinic last year showed that obese people on average pay $1,850 more in health costs a year, while the morbidly obese saw costs soar an additional $5,500 a year.

"Smoking added about 20 percent a year to medical costs," said Mayo's James Naessens. "Obesity was similar, but morbid obesity increased those costs by 50 percent a year. There really is an economic justification for employers to offer programs to help the very obese lose weight."

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Arena Pharmaceuticals' weight-loss drug, BELVIQ, was approved by the FDA on June 27, 2012. Once the US Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA, finalizes the scheduling designation, BELVIQ will be available to eligible patients in the United States by prescription. The company has entered into a Marketing and Supply Agreement with Ildong Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., which grants Ildong exclusive rights to market and distribute BELVIQ in South Korea.

VIVUS has recently unveiled a new program offering eligible patients a discount on Qsymia. "We believe our Qsymia offer programs provide more patients struggling with obesity the opportunity to partner with their physicians to experience the benefits of Qsymia," said Peter Y. Tam, president of VIVUS. "Our goal is to take every measure to make Qsymia more accessible to patients today as we continue to make progress toward achieving reimbursement for patients who qualify."

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