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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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May 4, 2011

GSK and Alli. Not Quite Working Out

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Posted by Derek

Jim Edwards at Bnet has a report that GlaxoSmithKline doesn't seem to be doing quite as well selling Alli (orlistat) as they'd planned. This notwithstanding that their CEO, Andrew Witty, has said that they've had some interest from outside buyers for the franchise.

No, if you run the numbers, it's hard to see how GSK is making any money at all from the drug, especially if sales figures went down last year they way they'd gone down the year before. But then, it's not that the company is telling us those numbers, which might tell you something right there. How could anyone have predicted such a thing?

Comments (12) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Diabetes and Obesity


1. Jon on May 4, 2011 9:59 AM writes...

Well, it could be worse. It could be like Aperture's ill-fated Repulsion Gel and Propulsion Gel.

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2. Jon on May 4, 2011 10:08 AM writes...

And at least I don't think Alli was ever made a joke of on either SNL or MadTV (it's been so long I don't remember) like P&G's Olestra was. Once the laugh line from Saturday night is "anal leakage", you know you're going to have problems with sales.

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3. PharmaHeretic on May 4, 2011 10:52 AM writes...

I had to put a link to this spoof an Alli.

Alli Poopy Pants Commercial

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4. Anon on May 4, 2011 1:31 PM writes...

That's too bad, if it were selling well, I'd know to buy stock in companies that sell brown pants.

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5. anon on May 4, 2011 3:40 PM writes...

What more could you ask for in a diet pill. "Take alli, if you eat to much fat you'll get brown pants". Pretty good motivation if you ask me.
Shouldn't be an issue if you are committed to dieting. You really shouldn't be eating that cheesecake/burger/fried chicken anyway.

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6. Rick on May 4, 2011 5:01 PM writes...

This may seem off-point, but I think the contrast to the story in Derek's post is instructive, so please bear with me.

You know what I hope REALLY DOES work out? Vertex's recent approval of telaprevir. It's a great story of a small company having the guts to stick to their original mission and core competencies, tell dim-witted, short-sighted "investors" to F-off and getting their own drug - discovered, developed and registered in-house - through (pending) final FDA approval. For those who don't know, telaprevir is that rarest of things these days: a truly novel, first-in-class, small molecule drug that, if the clinical trial results are any indication, will singlehandedly transform the therapy of a disease (chronic HCV infection) and save lives. Try to find another example of where this has happened and you will see how truly remarkable this is. I hope it gets used as a case study to identify how we might really try to fix drug discovery.

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7. Lacerta Bio on May 4, 2011 6:15 PM writes...

During my consulting days, I was once charged with interviewing payers and their policies towards weight reduction prescription medications.

One payer said, with a perfectly straight face, "As long as there are salads and gym memberships available, we will not cover these drugs."

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8. anchor on May 5, 2011 5:53 AM writes...

Derek: When Roche brought to the market a 4-membered lactone analog (orlistat) it never did a roaring business in the first place and was burst as an anti-obesity drug. When GSK and Roche signed on this deal, I wondered, why? It works marginally and has lot of side effects (bloating, flatulence etc.). I am not at all surprised.

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9. petros on May 5, 2011 6:51 AM writes...

Rick's point is well made but I suspect Derek is loathe to blog on this pre-approval becuase of where it works.

Telaprevir looks really impressive and would seem to meet the hype of the book about the establishing of Vertex "The Billion Dollar Molecule"

On anchor's point, GSK's deal seemed to make little sense given that Alli was only available at lower doses than the Rx formulation with its moderate efficacy.

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10. Rick on May 5, 2011 8:41 AM writes...

Petros (#9), I know what you're saying re: Derek. Nonetheless, I suspect you'd agree that it'd be a pity to let the Vertex event go unremarked among this blog's audience. Given the stark contrast in achievements, this seemed like as good a place as any. :-)

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11. Anonymous on May 8, 2011 4:35 PM writes...

lots of flatulence and BS at Roche. Their drugs mirror their culture!

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12. fmr-GSKer on May 9, 2011 8:26 AM writes...

"Transforming" Orlistat to Alli and selling over the counter is what Witty refers to as "Innovation" over at GSK.

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