UPDATE 1-Qnexa weight loss drug lowers blood pressure-study

(Adds share price in third paragraph)

* Patients on drug keep weight off for a year

* Blood pressure also down slightly

* Share price rises on news

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

WASHINGTON, May 4 (BestGrowthStock) – An experimental weight loss
drug that pairs a stimulant with an epilepsy drug helped
patients lose weight and keep it off for a year and also
lowered blood pressure, a researcher said on Tuesday.

A consultant to Mountain View, California-based Vivus Inc
(VVUS.O: ) said three separate studies showed patients lost more
weight when they took the highest doses of Qnexa, which is up
for Food and Drug Administration approval in July.

Shares in Vivus soared 13.6 percent to $11.73 a share in
early afternoon trading.

Drops in blood pressure were small but clear and equated
with the weight loss, said Dr. Suzanne Oparil of the University
of Alabama at Birmingham.

“The weight loss is very impressive, and it is good that
there is concomitant reduction in blood pressure,” Oparil said
in a telephone interview from a meeting of the American Society
of Hypertension in New York.

Oparil, a past president of the American Heart Association,
pooled and analyzed the results of three separate studies of
Qnexa in nearly 8,000 overweight and obese patients.

“At week 58 there is a nice weight reduction,” she said.
The higher the dose, the more weight loss and the more blood
pressure went down, she said.

The patients who got the highest dose along with diet and
exercise advice lost about 10 percent of their body weight on
average, she said.

Vivus is trying to improve on the notorious “fen-phen”
combination pulled off the market in 1997 after it was found to
damage the heart and cause sometimes fatal cases of pulmonary
hypertension.

IMPROVING HEALTH

Fen-phen combined fenfluramine and phentermine.
Phentermine, a stimulant now available generically, appears
safe and is used at low doses in Qnexa along with the epilepsy
drug topiramate, available generically and sold by Johnson &
Johnson’s (JNJ.N: ) Ortho-McNeil unit as Topamax.

Losing just 10 percent of body weight is enough to lower
cholesterol and blood pressure, reduce the risk of diabetes and
early death. About 68 percent of U.S. adults are overweight or
obese.

In the three studies that Oparil analyzed, about 80 percent
of the patients were women, most morbidly obese with weights of
220 to 260 pounds (100 to 118 kg).

Most did not have high blood pressure but among those who
did and who took the highest Qnexa dose, the systolic or top
number in the blood pressure reading went down an average of 9
points, compared to 4 points for the women who got placebos.

Oparil said the most common side effects were tingling and
dry mouth, each seen in 19 percent of the patients who took the
highest dosages.

Topiramate acts on the nervous system and tends to act as a
sedative, said Oparil. This can reduce appetite. In addition,
patients said the drug made carbonated drinks taste metallic
and that may have helped patients avoid sugary soft drinks.

Doses of both drugs are far lower than those usually used
— when phentermine is used alone to treat obesity, for
example, or when topiramate is used for epilepsy, she said.

The FDA’s Endocrinologic and Metabolic Drugs Advisory
Committee is tentatively scheduled to review Vivus’ Qnexa on
July 15, the company said.

Thomson Pharma has forecast 2013 sales of $357 million for
Qnexa. Vivus reported its first quarter 2010 results on Monday
with a net loss of $18.8 million, or $0.23 per share.

Stock Research

(Editing by Todd Eastham)

UPDATE 1-Qnexa weight loss drug lowers blood pressure-study