Vivus CEO Optimistic On FDA Approval for Qnexa

An FDA panel’s recommendation for anti-obesity drug Qnexa last week sent “a very powerful signal that it’s likely to be approved,” Vivus CEO Leland Wilson said Monday.

The advisory committee voted 20-2 in favor of approval for Qnexa, which would be the first weight-loss drug approved for use in the United States in 13 years. A final decision from the FDA is expected April 17.

In an exclusive “Fast Money” interview, Wilson said he expected to receive approval.

Wilson said the company planned a post-approval study focused on the long-term safety of the drug, specifically on its effects on the heart — a concern raised by the advisory committee.

The drug will be marketed by Vivus itself within the U.S. market, but Wilson said the company would be seeking a pharmaceutical partner for foreign markets.

Last week, Rodman & Renshaw’s Michael King upgraded Vivus stock and estimated 2020 U.S. sales at $3 billion and foreign sales at $1.8 billion.

Vivus did not release sales estimates, although Wilson did say that there were 108 million people in the United States considered overweight and obese.

“Frankly, not that many people actually show up for the treatment of their conditions,” he said. “We’re cautious on guiding people toward that this is a product that is going to be used by tens of millions of people.”

Wilson said that Vivus had enough cash on hand — $145 million — to launch the drug and would not immediately look to raise funds.

“Our position is that we have adequate money to take us through the approval process,” he said. “We’ll look opportunistically when we’re looking to do that.”

Trader Stephen Weiss warned about playing the pharmaceutical space on the rise in Vivus’s stock price, which soared 112.7 percent over the past five days. Its stock closed at $23.78, up 7.5 percent.

Stuart Frankel’s Steve Grasso said it was the perfect time to sell.

“If you have the opportunity to be long this stock already, you should be selling this type of spike right here on the charts,” he said. “Not that it can’t go higher, but you’ve got to clip this coupon when you have the chance.”

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Trader disclosure: On Feb. 27, 2012, the following stocks and commodities mentioned or intended to be mentioned on CNBC’s "Fast Money" were owned by the "Fast Money" traders: Weiss is long JPM; Weiss is long EUO; Weiss is long QCOM; Weiss is long HAIN; Weiss is long WLP; Weiss is long HYG; Weiss is long HK; Weiss is long CSC; Weiss is long HPQ; Weiss is short ANR; Weiss is short MT; J. Najarian is long AAPL; J. Najarian is long AMCC; J. Najarian is long CRM; J. Najarian is long CROX; J. Najarian is long FIO; J. Najarian is long HTZ; J. Najarian is long MA; J. Najarian is long RIG; J. Najarian is long UTX; J. Najarian is long SLV; J. Najarian is long CIGX; J. Najarian is long CBOE; J. Najarian is long CME; Murphy Short WHR; Kilburg is long TLT; Kilburg is long USO; Kilburg is long crude oil futures;

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