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Weight-loss drug pioneers aim to jump on Novo Nordisk’s Wegovy bandwagon

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Weight loss drug Wegovy has transformed the obesity market and pharmaceutical companies with existing treatments are hoping the resulting demand will boost demand for their older, less effective but cheaper, drugs.

A weekly injection of Wegovy, which was launched in the U.S. in June 2021, leads to an average weight loss of around 15%, alongside changes to diet and exercise. Its impact has captured the attention of patients, investors and even celebrities.

But supply issues for Wegovy manufacturer Novo Nordisk means the Danish drugmaker has struggled to meet surging U.S. demand, delaying a launch in most of Europe.

Insurers and some national governments have also baulked at its cost, while a minority of patients do not respond to it.

Vivus and Currax Pharmaceuticals, U.S.-based developers whose treatments have been on the U.S. market for around a decade, hope to benefit from the attention and supply shortage.

But scientists and investors say that lower efficacy plus side effects could continue to hold the treatments back.

In the coming months, Vivus plans to launch its pill, sold as Qsiva in Europe and Qysmia in the U.S., in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland. It already has regulatory approval in the U.S., Poland and South Korea, as well as these countries.

Vivus has submitted evidence MHRC

Vivus has also submitted evidence to the British regulator for the pill, and is in talks with regulators in a number of other European countries as well as in the Middle East and Mexico, its chief executive John Amos is reported to have told the European Congress on Obesity last week (17-20 May) in Dublin.

“The new agents have created a much broader (awareness): obesity is not a series of bad choices, it’s a medical condition that requires therapy,” he said.

Qsiva was rejected by the European Medicines Agency in 2013 over safety fears, which Amos said were “overblown”, as U.S. patients have been using it for years without major red flags. Vivus said annual sales now total more than $150 million.

The drug, which is not recommended for people with unstable heart disease and can cause mood disorders and eye problems, leads to around 11% weight loss, and works in a different way to the new class of drugs.

Qsiva was rejected by the European Medicines Agency in 2013 over safety fears, which Amos said were “overblown”, as U.S. patients have been using it for years without major red flags. Vivus said annual sales now total more than $150 million.

The drug, which is not recommended for people with unstable heart disease and can cause mood disorders and eye problems, leads to around 11% weight loss, and works in a different way to the new class of drugs.

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