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Eisai takes control of weight loss drug Belviq from Arena

Buys global rights to obesity drug in $49m deal to expedite roll-out and boost sales
Eisai's Belviq

Frustrated with lacklustre sales growth, Eisai has bought global rights to weight-loss drug Belviq from its originator Arena Pharmaceuticals.

Belviq (lorcaserin) was billed as a blockbuster-in-waiting when it was approved and launched in 2012, becoming the first new obesity treatment in more than a decade, but sales growth has been slow and the roll-out into new markets has been glacial.

To date the drug has been approved in the US, South Korea and Mexico (where it is known as Venespri), and launched in the first two markets. Brazil is expected to be the next launch country. Commercially it never really got going and already started to slip back - Eisai reported sales of just 1.64bn yen (just over $12m) in the six months to 31 October 2016, a decline of nearly a third on the same period of 2015.

Eisai has already invested considerable effort and resources in the drug and clearly decided it can do better with the drug on its own.

Under the new agreement, the Japanese drugmaker had acted as exclusive distributor for the drug but now acquires all of Arena's rights to develop and market Belviq worldwide. It also takes over over Arena's distribution agreements with third party companies in three territories not covered by their original agreement - South Korea, Taiwan and Israel.

The move comes after the launch of a new once-daily formulation of lorcaserin called Belviq XR in the US, replacing the current twice-a-day version.

The deal includes a $23m payment from Eisai to Arena over a two-year period for manufacturing of the finished product, royalties on sales and up to $26m in milestones. However, the bulk ($25m) of the latter comes only if sales of lorcaserin exceed $250m in a calendar year. Meanwhile, Arena says handing over rights means it can avoid around $80m in clinical development expenses.

The US company has been making noises about backing away from Belviq for some time, with chief executive Amit Munshi telling investors last year that the company had "de-emphasised" its efforts on the drug.

"We don't spend a lot of time thinking about Belviq or chasing the scripts or doing anything above and beyond what is contractually required," he said.

In a statement, Eisai said taking control of the programme "will give it greater freedom in its development and submission strategy, support its goal of making contributions to address unmet medical needs in the clinical management of obesity and increase the benefits for patients and their families worldwide".

Article by
Phil Taylor

5th January 2017

From: Sales

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