No sooner had GlaxoSmithKline been hit with H1N1 flu disappointments than another problem surfaced: counterfeit versions of its weight-loss product Alli. The difference is that the flu vaccine and drug woes will definitely decrease sales, while the Alli fakery could conceivably end up channeling more folks to legit branded versions of the product. Provided it doesn't scare them away altogether.
Here's the deal: The FDA is warning that fake Alli doesn't contain orlistat, the real version's active ingredient, but sibutramine, a narcotic that can be dangerous for some people to take. So far, it appears that the fake versions were just sold over the internet, not in retail stores. So the patients who'd been ordering from online pharmacies might turn instead to retail outlets where bonafide Alli is sold. Not nearly the sort of windfall Glaxo expected to get from flu vaccine sales, but it's something.
Which brings us to the latest on flu-related sales. The Financial Times is reporting that Glaxo's pandemic flu vax revenues may come in 25 percent lower than the expected $3.25 billion, now that Germany has cut its orders for the shot by 30 percent, and the U.K., Belgium and France are expected to follow suit. Credit Suisse has already cut its estimates for Glaxo vax sales by $800 million, and other firms are set to do the same before the company reports 2009 results early next month. We'll keep you posted.