Lap-Band maker issues own advertising guidelines
Lap-Band maker Allergan Inc. is distancing itself from surgical centers at the center of a new controversy over misleading advertising of the weigh-loss device.
A spokeswoman for the Irvine company said it issued its own voluntary advertising guidelines earlier this year that call for doctors who use the Lap-Band device to present “balanced information” about the procedure and to base claims of success on scientific evidence.
The Lap-Band is a silicon ring surgically fitted over part of the stomach to discourage overeating.
“Advertising about medical procedures, including surgery involving the Lap-Band system, should convey the benefits and risks of the treatment and be truthful and not misleading,” the one-page set of guidelines says.
The guidance stands in contrast to allegations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that eight California surgical centers and the marketing firm 1-800-GET-THIN have misled consumers by failing to provide required information in their advertising materials about the risks and side effects of the procedure.
Allergan has sought repeatedly to set itself apart from marketers and doctors who use its device. Earlier this year, Chief Executive David E.I. Pyott criticized an independently run Southern California billboard marketing campaign that promotes the surgery with slogans like “Diets fail! The Lap-Band works!”
In a February interview with The Times, Pyott said: “That isn’t the wording I would use. We put patients’ welfare and safety at the top, so I wouldn’t support it.”
The company’s advertising guidelines are only recommendations. Doctors who use the surgical device are not required to follow them. The guidelines call for doctors to do the following:
* Be truthful and not misleading … reveal all information about the procedure that is important for patients to know and consider prior to the procedure.
* Provide balanced information about benefits and risks related to the procedure.
* Ensure that all claims of success, including comparative claims, have sufficient support, including appropriate scientific evidence when necessary.
* Use language that is easy to understand and appropriate for patients who may be interested in treatment.
* Present important risk information, including potential adverse events associated with the procedure, in a way that is clear and does not minimize the potential risks.
* Showcase only endorsements and testimonials from patients that are truthful and reflect a typical patient experience
* Encourage patients to seek information from other sources, such as patient support groups, to gain more information on their condition and potential treatment options
-- Duke Helfand
Photo: A 1-800-GET-THIN billboard beside a Southland freeway. Lap-Band maker Allergan Inc. says it's not responsible for the ads. Credit: Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times