Arena/Eisai Launch Weight Management Drug Belviq in the US
On June 11, Arena/Eisai launched the weight-management drug Belviq (lorcaserin) in the US, nearly a year after it was approved by the FDA. A 30-day supply of Belviq (60 tablets; taken twice-daily) has a retail price of around $250. This price is higher than that of Vivus’ once-daily weight-management drug Qsymia (phentermine/topiramate ER), which retails for around $160 for a 30-day supply of the recommended dose.
Eisai is running a patient support program, which provides new users with a 15-day free trial voucher and a savings card. With the savings card, people without insurance coverage receive $75 off Belviq and people with a copay greater than $50 can receive up to $75 off the portion of the copay above $50. Arena/Eisai have stated that about 30% of people with private health insurance are now covered in some fashion for Belviq, and Eisai is working on extending coverage. Vivus also has a free trial offer and 30-day discount programs for Qsymia – 14 days of the starting dose for free (“Free to Start” program) and no more than $75 for 30 days of the recommended dose (“Stick to it & Save” program).
In clinical trials, Belviq has shown moderate weight reductions, with an average of 3-4% placebo-adjusted total body weight loss after a year. In people with type 2 diabetes, a study found that 45% of participants lost 5% or more of their body weight over 12 months. Notably, people with type 2 diabetes on Belviq experienced an A1c reduction of 0.9%, better than the 0.4% reduction seen in the placebo group (baseline A1c was about 8.0%). The most common side effects observed with Belviq include headaches, dizziness, back pain, and hypoglycemia (thought to be due to a general decrease in blood glucose levels due to weight loss) in people with type 2 diabetes. After the American Medical Association’s decision to classify obesity as a disease, we are hopeful that a new perspective is emerging and we await news on whether this will lead to increased reimbursement for anti-obesity medications such as Belviq and Qsymia. -NL