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Vivus names 2 new directors to its board

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (AP) -- Obesity drug maker Vivus Inc. on Monday named two new directors to its board as it finds itself in a proxy fight.

The company named J. Martin Carroll and Jorge Plutzky as directors, expanding the board to nine members from seven. Carroll was the head of global strategy and U.S. CEO of German drugmaker Boehringer Ingelheim from 2003 to 2011, and Plutzky has directed the vascular disease prevention program at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston since 1996.

The moves follow the addition in April of Robert Wilson, a former director at Johnson & Johnson, to its board.

In March its biggest shareholder moved to replace the company's entire board because of disappointment with the launch of Qsymia.

Vivus' weight loss drug Qsymia was approved in July and went on sale in September. It was the second long-term weight loss drug approved in the U.S. since 1999, but sales have not lived up to expectations. In part that's because insurance coverage remains limited and out-of-pocket costs for patients are high. The FDA also hasn't allowed Qsymia to be dispensed at pharmacies, making the drug available through mail order only.

Vivus is working to expand coverage of the drug. The company said Monday that about 34 percent of people with commercial insurance have access to Qsymia, and it expects the drug to be available at some pharmacies by mid-July.

Shareholder First Manhattan Co. has nominated replacements for all six directors on Vivus' board, saying the launch of Qsymia has failed and the company needs more independent leadership. First Manhattan is the company's largest shareholder, with a 9.1-percent stake, according to FactSet.

Vivus said Monday seven of its directors are independent, and four have joined the board in the last 13 months.

The Mountain View, Calif., company is scheduled to host its annual meeting July 15.

Shares of Vivus picked up 54 cents, or 4.2 percent, to $13.50 in morning trading. The stock is down about 45 percent in the past year.