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Vivus slumps on slow 4Q weight loss drug sales

Shares of Vivus Inc. declined Tuesday after the biopharmaceutical company reported disappointing sales of its weight loss drug Qsymia.

Vivus disclosed its financial results after the market closed Monday. The Mountain View, Calif., company said sales totaled $2 million in the latest quarter, which was below Wall Street estimates, and said it took a larger loss as its sales and marketing costs increased.

Shares of Vivus lost $1.19, or 9.6 percent, to $11.21 in morning trading.

Vivus began marketing Qsymia Sept. 17. Sales have been disappointing because of limited insurance coverage and high copays, and the drug is only available through mail order. The company said prescriptions continue to improve: it has filed 17,400 prescriptions over the month ended Feb. 15 and has filled about 57,000 prescriptions total.

Vivus has been trying to boost sales with supply agreements and a free trial program for prospective patients, and it is negotiating with regulators about allowing the drug to be dispensed at certain pharmacies. Vivus said the Food and Drug Administration will make a decision on the pharmacy application in April.

Cowen & Co. analyst Simos Simeonidis questioned the company's marketing strategy and said sales of Qsymia won't improve until Vivus makes a more substantial marketing effort. He now expects sales of the drug to total $43 million in 2013, down from his previous estimate of $62 million. Analysts expect sales of Qsymia to eventually reach billions of dollars per year.

Vivus said it lost $56.7 million, or 56 cents per share, during the fourth quarter. A year earlier it took a loss of $11.5 million, or 13 cents per share.

Analysts expected a loss of 25 cents per share and $3 million in revenue, according to FactSet.

For 2012, Vivus lost $139.9 million, or $1.42 per share, wider than its net loss of $46.1 million, or 55 cents per share, in 2011. Its revenue totaled $2 million.