By Mathew Herper
“The next Lipitor.” That’s the prediction Christopher James of investment bank MLV & Co. made for Vivus’ new obesity drug in a Bloomberg story last week. He was quoted as saying it could be given to tens of millions of patients.
It’s not that Vivus’ drug, Qnexa, doesn’t have potential to become the best-selling weight loss pill ever. It’s that it could be many times bigger than any weight loss medicine ever and still not even come close to hitting Lipitor’s peak of $11 billion in global annual sales. (Until it went off patent last year, Lipitor, a Pfizer cholesterol medicine, was the best selling drug ever.)
It seems intuitively obvious that the market for an obesity drug would be vast. But the reality is that obesity drugs have never sold in Lipitor-like numbers, and they are not likely to unless someone comes up with one that is absolutely perfect in terms of efficacy and side effects.