Allergan may sell Lap-Band, Bariatric surgeon weighs in
By April MacIntyre Nov 1, 2012, 21:57 GMT
Santa Monica surgeon Dr. Carson Liu prepares a patient for weight-loss surgery. Liu thinks the surgery helps reverse diabetes by forcing patients to eat more healthfully. (courtesy of Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times)
The Irvine-based Allergan, maker of Botox, is considering selling its Lap-Band weight-loss unit amid rapidly declining sales and negative publicity about patient deaths from the shady 1-800 group that at one time enlisted Dr. Drew Pinsky as a spokesperson.
It was reported by the LA Times that sales were down 25% from last year and 53% from its peak four years ago.
"We're exploring strategic options for the obesity intervention business, as the sales dynamics do not fit the profile of a high-growth company like Allergan," David E.I. Pyott, the company's chairman and chief executive, said Tuesday during a conference call reported by the LA Times. "Vigorous management of our portfolio businesses has always been integral to our strategy."
Allergan acquired the Lap-Band when it bought Santa Barbara-based Inamed in 2006.
The Times also reported that the FBI and FDA were conducting a criminal investigation of 1-800-GET-THIN and Michael and Julian Omidi, the brothers who lawsuits say own the company.
Lap-Band surgery has competing treatments for the same outcome of intense weight loss. There is also the sleeve gastrectomy requiring the stomach to be cut open and stapled so it holds less food. There is also the No Band surgery, which folds the stomach without inserting foreign objects.
Dr. Carson Liu, M.D. is a regular contributor to Monsters and Critics and has comments on Allergan’s announcement this week that it will likely abandon its Lap Band product – the nation’s most common bariatric procedure
A celebrated bariatric surgeon who has performed more than 2,500 Lap Band procedures himself, Dr. Liu also has been a public and vocal critique of the abuse of the Lap Band - statistically, one of the safest bariatric procedures - by some marketing firms, notably 1-800-GET-THIN. (Dr. Liu has been quoted in the L.A. Times and appeared on TV news condemning such abusive practices.)
Dr. Liu’s comments about Allergan and the Lap Band:
“I believe Lap Band sales were artificially pumped up by 1-800-Get-Thin. Sales decreased with the advent of the bad economy and the very slow recovery. In addition, Allergan ceased sales to one of their largest buyers of the product [1-800-Get Thin]. Finally, its association with 1-800-Get-Thin embroiled Allergan in Congressional hearings, lawsuits and criminal investigations along with a complete destruction of the product’s safety profile by the patients’ deaths associated with 1-800-Get-Thin.
“A contributing factor has been the decline in coverage provided by insurance plans, which, compared to just three years ago, have foisted higher premiums, higher deductibles and more co-pays onto patients. As a result, patients are more reluctant to pursue elective surgery when they have to pay out of pocket before a procedure. They also tend not to worry about their health when they are trying to survive an economic recession.
“Still, the Lap Bands’ $37 million in sales for the last quarter isn’t bad for any medical product line. However, even if it does sell Lap Band, Allergan isn’t getting out of the bariatric business. It still will have Ober intragastric balloons, which soon may get FDA approval, as well as other weight-loss product lines that promise to be genuinely innovative. Moreover, I believe Allergan is divesting itself of Allergan to concentrate on aesthetics (Botox, fillers, and breast implants) and ophthalmics. Weight loss was always the odd product line for Allegan that came with Inamed, the largest saline breast implant, as the result of Allergan's purchase of the company.”
More on Dr. Liu: http://www.drcarsonliu.com/