Naming the New Product
In July 2012, the Food and Drug Administration approved a prescription diet drug—the first to come on the market in 13 years.
In June 2013, the American Medical Association declared obesity a disease. With good reason. The Center for Disease Control declared one-third of Americans are clinically obese.
The stage was set for a perfect alignment of the stars. Presumably Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers would reimburse the cost of the pills. Looking like Daniel Craig or Beyoncé would be free. Wellness would replace obesity related illnesses. Productivity would soar. The recession would be over.
The Launch That Bombed
In an article titled "Few Signs of a Taste for Diet Pills" in The New York Times, Andrew Pollack wrote:
Sales of the drug, Qsymia (pronounced Kyoo-sim-EE-ah), have been minuscule since it went on sale last September. Sales totaled only $4.1 million in the first quarter of this year, even as Vivus, the manufacturer, spent $45 million on marketing, sales and administrative expenses.
Vivus's stock price has plunged to $12.41 from $29 on the day after Qsymia was approved last July. And the company's largest shareholder, saying the drug's introduction was horribly botched, is battling to oust the entire board and top management at Vivus's annual shareholder meeting on July 15.
What's in a Name? Qsymia. Qsymia?????
In his Times piece, Andrew Pollock pointed out obstacles to the success of Qsymia:
- The drug is not very effective.
- Lack of insurance reimbursement.
- Troubled history of diet drugs (e.g., American Home Products settled $3.75 billion in compensation to thousands of patients who used Phen-fen.)
- " ... a feeling on the part of many doctors and obese people themselves that excess weight is a lifestyle issue best addressed by more willpower, rather than a disease that requires medical treatment."
Not mentioned by Pollack, the weird name of the drug—Qsymia.