You don't need a crystal ball to see that Allergan (AGN) has run into trouble on its Lap-Band stomach shrinking device: Its obesity intervention revenues sank 12 percent to $54.4 million in Q2 2011, making it an almost negligible part of the Botox-maker's business.
Allergan has already discontinued one of its gastric banding devices, the EasyBand, and there are reasons to believe the company might consider axing the Lap-Band, too: It keeps killing and injuring people. Consider:
- Tamara Walter died Dec. 26, 2010. She was the fourth Lap-Band patient to die who was treated at a chain of clinics advertising in California under the "1-800 Get-Thin" banner
- Laura Lee Faitro died July 26, 2010, of "multi-organ failure and infarction due to shock, secondary to bleeding and sepsis in the abdominal cavity," according to her autopsy. She was one of the 1-800 Get-Thin victims.
- Cheronna Marie Williams, died May 26, 2011, after Lap-Band surgery in Tijuana.
- Danielle Delango died March 2010 in New York.
- Rebecca Quatinetz, died August 2010, also in New York.
- Bridget Sandoval was injured by Lap-Band surgery after a 1-800 Get-Thin advertiser operated on her despite the fact his medical license had been revoked in 2007.
- Lynita Hetzel was hospitalized in Tennessee in 2006 after allegedly being operated on improperly.
But Allergan has funded doctors who have produced some less than medically sound marketing, notably DoctorsofWeightLoss.com, which at one point suggested the Lap-Band could help women attain their bikini weight. It is only approved for seriously obese people, not folks who want to look buff on the sand.
The product is inherently risky. Allergan's own research shows that one third of all patients require follow up surgery. Meanwhile, 1-800 Get-Thin continues to advertise the device with pro-anorexia messages such as, "Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels."
This situation has all the appearances of a product discontinuation waiting to happen.