Two former employees of weight-loss surgery centers have filed a lawsuit against the clinics that allegedly are affiliated with the 1-800-GET-THIN advertising company, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The marketing firm runs ads for the Lap-Band device, which is used to treat obesity by surgically implanting a ring around the stomach to discourage overeating (Pfeifer, Los Angeles Times, 1/18).
Last month, FDA sent warning letters to eight surgical centers and the marketing company about misleading ads of Lap-Band (California Healthline, 12/21/11).
Since 2009, at least five patients have died following Lap-Band procedures at Beverly Hills and West Hills clinics associated with the advertising firm, according to autopsy reports, public records and lawsuits.
Details of the Lawsuit
The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, claims that:
- Patients were influenced to have medical procedures they did not need;
- The centers billed insurers for procedures that never were performed; and
- Executives covered up mistakes that led to the death a Lap-Band patient in September 2011.
According to the lawsuit, the alleged mistakes included:
- Allowing intravenous pain medication to spill on the floor; and
- Assuming a blood pressure machine was wrong when it showed dangerously low readings.
The two former employees filing the lawsuit also claimed they were retaliated against when they reported unsanitary and unsafe conditions at the clinics.
Eleven former patients also are named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which seeks damages from eight individuals, including two brothers -- Michael and Julian Omidi -- who the lawsuit says operate the ads for Lap-Band surgeries.
Meanwhile, a surgeon who performed procedures at the Beverly Hills and West Hills clinics has brought allegations of insurance fraud against the companies.
The physician filed the claims in Los Angeles County Superior Court in a pending wrongful death lawsuit.
Officials at the centers did not respond to requests for comments (Los Angeles Times, 1/18).