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How Much Can Vivus (NASDAQ:VVUS), Arena Pharma (NASDAQ:ARNA) Charge for Diet Pills?

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With two weight-loss drugs hitting the US market in coming months, pricing will be important.

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Even though it was approved first, Arena's Belviq may not be sold until early next year. For one thing, the drug has to be reviewed by the US Drug Enforcement Administration because of its potential for abuse. The Food and Drug Administration recommended the DEA schedule the pill as a controlled substance. At high levels, the drug can cause hallucinations and euphoria. Arena execs made it clear on a conference call Thursday that little will be said about a sales launch until the DEA has completed its review.

Lief told investors on a conference call that his company's partnership with Eisai is one of the reasons he feels confident about his drug's chances for success. Vivus doesn't have a marketing partner, a fact that leads Simeonidis to predict a somewhat slow sales launch for that company's pill.

Shares of both companies have exploded this year. Arena's stock is up almost 300% this year to $7.26 in midday trading Friday, while Vivus more than doubled in the same period, trading at $21.46. Shares of a third diet pill maker, Orexigen Therapeutics (NASDAQ:OREX), are up almost 160% this year, trading at $4.16 Friday. Orexigen is conducting a safety study before it can seek US approval.

Twitter: @brettchase

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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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