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Vivus tumbles on Qsymia prescription concerns

NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of Vivus Inc. sank Tuesday after the company said sales of its new weight loss drug Qsymia are being hurt by limited insurance coverage and high copays.

In a conference call, Vivus said the retail price for a 30-day prescription of Qsymia at the recommended dose is $160. About one out of five prescriptions are being covered by third-party insurance, and the average copay for the drug is $62. The company said 30 percent of prescriptions are being abandoned because of the high cost. The company said 5,560 Qsymia prescriptions were filled between the start of the drug's launch on Sept. 17 and Oct. 26.

Shares of Vivus lost $3.68, or 25 percent, to $11.27 in midday trading.

The Food and Drug Administration approved Qsymia in July, and it is the first obesity drug to reach the market in more than a decade. Vivus said insurance coverage so far is "minimal" for that reason. The company said Qsymia is now available through the CVS Caremark Corp., Walgreen Co., and Express Scripts Inc. home delivery networks and through "a large closed model health maintenance organization."

The Mountain View, Calif., company reported its third-quarter results Tuesday morning. Because of the costs of marketing Qsymia Vivus said it lost $40.4 million, or 40 cents per share. In the year-ago quarter Vivus took a loss of $8.6 million, or 10 cents per share. Vivus reported $41,000 in revenue, compared with none a year ago.

Research and development costs more than doubled to $9.3 million during the quarter, while selling, general and administrative costs rose more than sixfold to $31.3 million.

Analysts were forecasting a loss of 32 cents per share and about $400,000 in revenue, based on a survey by FactSet.