Shares in Vivus were on the rise as investors celebrated clinical data indicating that the firm's obesity drug Qnexa reduced weight and improved cardiovascular profiles.

Long-term data from the SEQUEL study showed that patients treated with Qnexa (phentermine/topiramate) long-term experienced reductions in blood pressure and the use of antihypertensives as well as improvements in lipid levels following significant reductions in weight loss compared with those taking a placebo.

Specifically, the trial showed that, after two years, the mean percent weight loss in patients taking Qnexa was -10.5% for the top dose compared to just -1.8% in those taking a ghost pill.

Those with hypertension at the beginning of the study given the drug showed a significant reduction in the number of antihypertensive medications required of -18.9% (for the top dose), while patients taking a placebo actually showed a net increase of +4.2%.

In addition, dyslipidaemic patients treated with Qnexa had decreases in triglycerides of -26.3% versus -14.3% for the control arm, while an improvement in high density lipoprotein cholesterol (the good type) of +16.7% was recorded, compared to +9.1% for the placebo group.

And in more good news, the drug was found to be well tolerated, with no new safety signals seen between 56 and 108 weeks, the firm said.

Important data

"Maintaining double-digit weight loss over two years, with resulting improvements in cardiovascular risk factors and an overall reduction in medications used to treat comorbidities makes this important data for clinicians," said Michael Davidson, clinical professor and director of preventive cardiology at The University of Chicago.

The data should give the drugmaker an extra spring in its step given that it is racing against Orexigen and Arena to get the first prescription weight-loss pill in more than a decade onto the US market, following the launch of Roche's Xenical (orlistat) in 1999.