On Thursday, Pinsky issued this statement through his publicist:
“As you may expect, I have a confidentiality clause in my agreement and am unable to comment at this time.”
The longtime host of the syndicated radio talk show “Loveline” and reality TV series “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew” was first asked by The Times to discuss his role with 1-800-GET-THIN on Tuesday.
That was the day the Food and Drug Administration said it had accused 1-800-GET-THIN and several of its affiliated surgery centers with misleading advertising, saying the company failed to adequately disclose the risks of the surgery in its billboard, television and radio ads.
Five patients have died after Lap-Band surgery at clinics affiliated with 1-800-GET-THIN since 2009, according to lawsuits, autopsy reports and other public records. The company's billboards are plastered along freeways throughout Southern California.
Pinsky recently became the voice of 1-800-GET-THIN, advocating Lap-Band surgery on radio ads and in a recording played for those who called 1-800-GET-THIN. On Thursday, a call to the number was answered directly by an operator, not a recording of Pinsky pitching the Lap-Band.
Kathryn Trepinski, a lawyer who represents relatives of one of the deceased patients, said she was disappointed that Pinsky has elected to remain silent.
“This has been an enormously powerful billboard and radio advertising campaign, the likes of which we’ve really never seen before," Trepinski said. "People have gone forward with these surgeries not fully recognizing the risks. Dr. Drew’s endorsement certainly didn’t clarify the risk of the surgery.
“Because he is a media personality, it may have given patients a false sense of security. The public is entitled to have a discussion with him about why he did it.”
-- Stuart Pfeifer and Michael Hiltzik
Photo: Dr. Drew Pinsky. Credit: VH1