An anesthesiologist has filed a lawsuit alleging that the 1-800-GET-THIN marketing firm's president committed identity theft, using the physician's name without his consent to establish a corporation that billed insurers, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Martin Flynn, the anesthesiologist, filed the lawsuit in federal court in Los Angeles.
The lawsuit comes as the 1-800-GET-THIN campaign and its affiliated surgery centers face investigations by local, state and federal officials (Pfeifer, Los Angeles Times, 2/21).
In December 2011, FDA sent warning letters to 1-800-GET-THIN and affiliated surgery centers regarding ads that it said were misleading about its Lap-Band procedure, which is used to treat obesity by surgically implanting a ring around the stomach to discourage overeating.
The company later added a disclosure to its website, saying the surgeries can result in death.
Since 2009, five Southern California patients have died after having the Lap-Band procedure, according to autopsy reports, lawsuits and public records.
Members of Congress are investigating the safety of the procedure, as well as its marketing.
According to the health insurance company Aetna, the California Department of Insurance has started an investigation into the business practices of weight-loss surgery centers associated with the marketing initiative (California Healthline, 2/8).
Details of the Lawsuit
The lawsuit alleges that Robert Silverman, president of 1-800-GET-THIN, created MAFL Medical in May 2011 to bill insurers for anesthesiology services administered to Lap-Band patients.
Flynn said his personal information was "stolen" by the defendants -- including Michael Omidi, who owns 1-800-GET-THIN and its affiliated surgery centers -- to set up MAFL Medical.
The anesthesiologist said he did provide care to more than 200 Lap-Band patients but that he refused to sign a contract to allow the owners of the surgery centers to establish a corporation to bill insurers for his services.
Response to the Allegations
Silverman said in an email, "There is absolutely no merit to these baseless unverified allegations." He added that he is "100% confident that this cause of action will be dismissed" (Los Angeles Times, 2/21).
Note: The lawsuit against Robert Silverman was dismissed on March 20, 2013.