February 23, 2024

As Sales Fall, Allergan Seeks a Buyer for Lap-Band

The falling sales “do not fit the profile of a high-growth company like Allergan,” David E. I. Pyott, the company’s chief executive, told analysts Tuesday morning on a call announcing the company’s third-quarter financial results.

In an interview, Mr. Pyott said Allergan had already hired an investment banking firm, which he would not name, and was sending letters to other medical device companies and private equity firms seeking a buyer for its obesity business, which also includes a balloonlike device that is not approved in the United States but is used in some other countries.

The Lap-Band, a silicone ring that is wrapped around the stomach and can be inserted in an outpatient procedure, once appeared to have a bright future as a less drastic, if less effective, alternative to gastric bypass, which involves rerouting the digestive tract.

But Allergan’s obesity business sales have fallen from a peak of $296 million in 2008 to an expected $160 million this year. In the third quarter, the sales fell by 25 percent to $37.4 million from a year earlier.

The obesity business, while still profitable, represents less than 3 percent of total product sales for Allergan, which is known most for its Botox treatment for wrinkles, migraine headaches and other conditions.

Although one-third of American adults are obese, the number of weight loss surgeries in the United States — about 160,000 a year — has stopped growing, largely because of the economy, Mr. Pyott said. Many patients pay out of pocket for weight loss surgery, and even when the procedure is covered by insurance, there can be a co-payment of thousands of dollars.

Mr. Pyott said Allergan had made progress in the last year in lowering barriers to insurance coverage, but it was not sufficient to reverse the decline in sales of the Lap-Band.

But gastric banding has also lost market share among weight loss surgeries, falling to about one-third from 44 percent a year ago, Mr. Pyott said. Lap-Band has most of the market among bands, although Johnson Johnson also sells such a product.

Gaining in popularity has been sleeve gastrectomy, which involves cutting out part of the stomach. It is considered midway between banding and bypass in terms of both effectiveness and the degree of invasiveness of the surgery.

Dr. Marc Bessler, director of the center for metabolic and weight loss surgery at Columbia University, said that Lap-Band had lost some luster among bariatric surgeons because studies suggested it was not effective in the long run for one-third to two-thirds of patients.

“You had data coming out that 10-year outcomes are not what we were expecting,” Dr. Bessler said.

One study in Europe, for instance, published in The Archives of Surgery last year, reported that over 12 years, 60 percent of patients needed another operation, often to remove the band, because of complications or lack of weight loss. Allergan has said that techniques have improved since the patients in that study received their bands.

In 2011, Allergan succeeded in getting the Food and Drug Administration to approve use of the Lap-Band for patients with lower weight than had been previously required. But that did not bolster sales, in part because of difficulty getting insurance to pay.

The company dropped efforts to get the Lap-Band approved for use in teenagers after controversy arose about the product’s safety.

There have been news reports about problems, including deaths, from the band.

Allergan said its overall product sales for the third quarter rose 6.1 percent from a year earlier to $1.39 billion. Earnings per share, after adjustments, rose to $1.06 from 92 cents.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/31/business/as-sales-fall-allergan-seeks-a-buyer-for-lap-band.html?partner=rss&emc=rss