Lap-Band Maker Will Not Sell to Clinics Linked to Marketing Campaign

Allergan, the maker of the Lap-Band device, no longer will sell the weight loss device to surgery centers associated with the 1-800-GET-THIN advertising firm, which is being investigated by state and federal officials, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The Lap-Band procedure is used to treat obesity by surgically implanting a ring around the stomach to discourage overeating (Pfeifer/Henningan, Los Angeles Times, 2/2).

Background

In December 2011, FDA sent warning letters to 1-800-GET-THIN and its affiliated surgery centers about ads that were misleading about the procedure.

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.

Los Angeles County supervisors are examining whether the county can regulate weight-loss ads.

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, 1/27).

In addition, members of the U.S. House have called for an investigation into the advertisements, as well as the safety and effectiveness of the Lap-Band device (California Healthline, 1/31).

Reaction

The surgery centers said that they were disappointed by Allergan's decision but would continue working to find the best options for patients interested in weight loss (AP/Sacramento Bee, 2/2).

Lars Perner -- assistant professor of clinical marketing at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business -- said that Allergan's decision could present hurdles for the 1-800-GET-THIN campaign because its marketing approach is tied closely to the Lap-Band name.

Carson Liu, a Santa Monica bariatric surgeon, praised Allergan's decision. He said he has been trying to explain to patients that there is a difference between the Lap-Band device and the 1-800-GET-THIN campaign.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said that he is pleased with the decision but still wants Congress to examine whether FDA is properly regulating Lap-Band and similar devices (Los Angeles Times, 2/2).


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