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Qsymia Health Benefits continued...

"We found that over the entire 52 weeks of the first trial, patients lost from 11% to 14% of their body weight," Look says. "But the most dramatic effect we saw was in patients who were pre-diabetic and were prevented from converting to diabetes -- and in patients who had diabetes who not only had lower blood sugar but whom we could take off several of their diabetes medications."

Look said many of the study participants volunteered because they had "really, really tried to reduce weight via diet and exercise" but failed over and over again.

"Obesity needs to be treated as the chronic medical disease it is," Look says. "This means putting people on medication, but we have not had an effective tool for treating people. Now, in addition to diet and exercise, we have a medical therapy."

Qsymia: Diet, Exercise Still Needed

Qsymia is not a diet in a bottle. The medication works only in combination with diet and exercise.

But taking the drug made it easier to cut calories and to become more active, says Gwen Barton. Barton, 57, a New York City resident, volunteered for one of the clinical trials that led to Qsymia approval. WebMD contacted Barton through Vivus' public relations firm.

"The diet got easier as I went along with the trial," Barton says. "I didn't have the appetite I did before, or all the cravings for sweets and stuff. And within a month or so I was losing 2 to 3 pounds a week or more."

The 5-foot-2 Barton weighed 210 pounds when she started taking Qsymia. Over the year-long study, she lost 50 pounds. Since the study ended, she hasn't been able to get the drug. She's now gained back 20 pounds.

"Now I am just so happy the drug is back," Barton says. "I've made my doctor appointment already."

Qsymia Cost

At first, Vivus expects few private or public insurance plans to pay for Qsymia prescriptions. While the company plans to work to get its drug added to formularies, most people likely will pay out of pocket.

The wholesale price of Qsymia -- that is, the price pharmacies will pay -- for a 30-day supply will be:

  • Low dose (3.75 mg phentermine/23 mg topiramate) -- $120.00
  • Recommended dose (7.5 mg/46 mg) -- $135.62
  • Three-quarter dose (11.25 mg/69 mg) -- $162.74
  • Top dose (15 mg/92 mg) -- $183.90

As part of a risk-reduction plan Vivus negotiated with the FDA, Qsymia will be available only to doctors who have completed a Qsymia provider-training program. The drug will be sold only through certified mail-order pharmacies. At this time, those pharmacies are CVS, Walgreens, and Kaiser Permanente (for Kaiser members only).

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