FDA: Beware of Deceptive 1-800-GET-THIN AD’s
The news headlines feature the FDA whistle-blowing on the deceptive 1-800-GET-THIN ads for Lap Band surgery that have little to no real disclosure for risks.
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This week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent a warning letter to the Southern California marketing company 1-800-GET-THIN for using misleading advertising to promote Lap-Band weight-loss surgery.
The agency says the company’s numerous billboards fail to convey the serious risks carried by weight-loss surgery. The agency’s move comes in response to complaints from Los Angeles County’s public health agency and even from Allergan, which manufactures the Lap-Band device used in the gastric banding surgery, saying the risks of the surgery are not properly communicated.
Five patients in southern California have died since 2009 after undergoing weight loss surgery at centers affiliated with 1-800-GET-THIN, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Lap-Band surgery (or laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding surgery) involves placing an inflatable band around the upper stomach in order to limit the amount of food the stomach can hold. It is a popular alternative to gastric bypass surgery, which involves stapling off a section of the stomach and rerouting food to bypass the small intestine. Recent studies have shown that Lap-Band patients suffer a high rate of complications, however, both major and minor: in March, a study found that 40% of patients experienced serious complications following surgery and an additional 22% had minor complications; 60% needed subsequent surgery.
“It’s the Wild Wild West out there when it comes to bariatric surgery,” said Dr. Liu. “My only regret with today’s FDA announcement is why it took two years to issue the warning.”
In a report published on Monsters and Critics, Dr. Liu says patients of his who have gone to the 1-800-GET-THIN clinics describe harrowing experiences that led them to believe that the clinics are actually scamming the insurance companies.
One woman used up all her insurance on unnecessary tests and procedures. Others reported that the clinics falsify the patients’ height and weight to get insurance approval, perform unnecessary tests and even require patients to undergo unnecessary surgery prior to the Lap-Band procedure. One man said he was told he had to have his normal gallbladder removed prior to the Lap-Band procedure. Women were told they need to have their normal uterus removed prior to surgery.
“This type of behavior on behalf of medical professionals is outrageous and inexcusable. Ultimately, however, patients must empower themselves and realize that a Lap Band procedure is surgery with all the risk and consequences associated with any surgery,” said Dr. Liu.
Dr. Liu advises that patients considering Lap Band surgery to look for a center that is officially recognized as a Surgical Review Corp Center of Excellence run through the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.
For more, you can see the FDA’s full warning letter here. http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/EnforcementActions/WarningLetters/ucm283312.htm
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