Fri, Jul 20, 2012 - Page 13 News List

ScinoPharm lands deal for Vivus anti-obesity pill

By Kevin Chen  /  Staff reporter

ScinoPharm Taiwan Ltd (台灣神隆), which supplies pharmaceutical ingredients on a made-to-order basis, confirmed yesterday it would start offering ingredients to Vivus Inc this quarter for the sale of a new weight-loss pill in the US.

The Taiwanese firm’s confirmation came after the US-based Vivus announced overnight it had obtained approval from US regulators to sell the new drug, named Qsymia, and plans to start selling it by the end of the year.

“ScinoPharm announced today that its Tainan facility will provide commercial manufacturing of topiramate, the active pharmaceutical ingredient [API] for Vivus’ Qsymia, a new drug for the treatment of obesity approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration [FDA] on July 17, 2012,” the company said yesterday in a statement.

Qsymia is the second FDA-approved treatment for chronic weight management in adults in 13 years, after the US regulator on June 27 approved Arena Pharmaceutical’s anti-obesity pill Belviq.

For ScinoPharm, Qsymia is its fourth new drug approved by the US FDA, which it considers a more effective pill than Belviq.

Currently, ScinoPharm is working on more than 70 new projects with five entering Phase III clinical trials, according to the company.

Shares in ScinoPharm rose 1.23 percent to NT$57.7 in Taipei trading yesterday. The stock has risen 33.26 percent so far this year, compared with the TAIEX’s 1.08 percent increase over the same period. In US trading, Vivus surged 9.6 percent to US$29 on Wednesday.

ScinoPharm, located in the Tainan Science-based Industrial Park (台南科學園區), is the nation's largest API supplier to the global pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. While serving the global generic industry, ScinoPharm also offers contract research and manufacturing services of existing and new drugs to companies around the world.

The company said its partnership with Vivus began with the supply of topiramate for the Qsymia clinical development program. ScinoPharm began commercial production of topiramate two years ago for the treatment of epilepsy and other nervous system disorders, it added.

With this approval for weight management, ScinoPharm president and chief executive Jo Shen (馬海怡) said in the statement that she expected the market potential for topiramate to increase substantially, without offering exact numbers.

Fubon Securities Investment Services Co (富邦投顧) analyst Heather Chang (張雅雯) said last month that Qsymia could become the world's most popular weight loss drug, after clinical studies showed that it can effectively assist in weight management without dangerous cardiovascular side effects.

"We forecast Qsymia can contribute between NT$100 million and NT$200 million to ScinoPharm's revenue this year and the sales of the drug will reach from NT$1 billion to NT$2 billion in five years," Chang said in a note on June 29.

ScinoPharm post NT$971 million in revenue in the first quarter of the year, down 13.9 percent from the fourth quarter of last year but up 22.2 percent from the same period of last year. Net income was NT$247 million in the first quarter, down 22.7 percent from the previous quarter but up 72 percent from a year earlier, with earnings per share (EPS) of NT$0.39.

Fubon forecast ScinoPharm's second-quarter revenue to show a sequential increase of 11 percent and an annual growth of 12 percent to NT$1.08 billion, while net income would grow 14 percent quarter-on-quarter and 10 percent year-on-year to NT$283 million, with NT$0.45 in EPS.

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