When the New York Post broke the story this week that New Jersey governor and presidential hopeful Chris Christie had underwent weight loss surgery using the LAP-BAND in February some on Wall Street bemoaned the rotund politicians timing.
" If only Chris Christie had announced his secret weight-loss surgery a few months ago…..," Britt wrote. Noting that shares of Allegran "ticked up only slightly."
Allergan, of course, announced last year that it had decided to shed its obesity business, which hasn’t grown since 2009. The company is expecting to sell the business by the middle of 2013 and there’s little chance this announcement will do much to change the company’s mind.
However, there’s little argument that Christie’s announcement could be a boon for weight loss surgery because of his public stature.
Several medical device companies employ celebrities who have underwent procedures using their products. For example, NuVasive Inc. (NSDQ:NUVA) counts basketball legend Bill Walton as a spokesman and Smith & Nephew (FTSE:SN, NYSE:SNN), hired Billy Jean King to tout its Legion implant.
However, high profile patients can do a lot for a med tech company, even when they aren’t using that particular company’s product.
Such was the case in March 2011 when former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney was implanted with a left ventricular assist device or LVAD, a tiny pump that helps the heart get get more oxygenated blood to the body’s extremities.
Cheney’s successful procedure was a boon to HeartWare International Inc. (NSDQ:HTWR) even though he didn’t acutally receive a Heartware product.
Douglas Godshall, CEO of the Framingham, Mass.-based medical device maker said this week that the company received lots of calls inquiring about the procedure following Cheney’s announcement in March.
"There’s certainly wide spread awareness [for VADs] because of Dick Cheney," he said during a panel discussion in Boston. "People will show up and say, ‘Is that what dick cheney had, or can I get what Dick Cheney had?"
" We certainly see the benefit because [he] had a good outcome and it does suggest that getting to patients and getting them to go to their cardiologist and say ‘I’ve heard about this VAD thing why am I in a hospital all the time when you haven’t told me about this?’
If Christie’s announcement was any dissapointment to Allergan is anyone’s guess but we’re sure the company will have plenty of time to talk it over with the governor. The company announced a commitment to the Garden State in 2011 to open a research and development center that is estimated to create $12 million in private investment into the state by 2016.