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Adjustable gastric band: National doctors group backs FDA crackdown

December 18, 2011 | 12:15 pm

In gastric banding, a band is wrapped around the stomach to drastically reduce its size.

A national organization of doctors has come out in support of the FDA crackdown on advertising for gastric banding surgery.

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration accused the 1-800-GET-THIN marketing company of using misleading advertising for its Lap-Band weight-loss surgery. As the Los Angeles Times reported, billboards alongside Southern California freeways show smiling thin people and grabby phrases -- while warnings of risks are so small as not to be legible, the FDA said. A recent radio ad, with its catchy jingle, included the endorsement of celebrity doctor Drew Pinsky.

Five Southern California Lap-Band patients have died since 2009.

Full coverage: Lap-Band investigation

On Friday, the American Society of Bariatric Physicians said it supported the FDA decision "to take action against surgical centers and the marketing firm 1-800-GET-THIN."

"Proper patient selection and a commitment to lifelong follow-up are crucial to the success of any surgical treatment for obesity," the organization said in a news release. "Physicians and surgeons who treat obese patients have an obligation to educate their patients about risks and benefits of all available treatments for obesity ....

"The ASBP believes that without such education patients cannot make an informed decision about which option(s) are in their best interest."

Gastric banding has become a seemingly more attractive weight-loss option in recent years.

Last year, The Times noted a study that showed the surgery as significantly more effect than lifestyle changes in helping extremely obese teens lose significant weight and maintain that weight loss.

And in June of this year, The Times reported on a study showing that the surgery benefitted diabetic patients: "Among 211 patients who had adjustable gastric banding, in which a silicon band is fitted around the stomach to restrict food intake, 62% could stop taking their diabetes medications in the months after surgery."

But, as Times columnist Michael Hiltzik wrote in January of this year on the Lap-Band version of gastric banding: Many consumers "don't have a clue when it comes to assessing the dangers of what is, after all, major surgery."


Full coverage: Lap-Band investigation

Lap-Band maker needs to step up

Lap-Band maker issues own advertising guidelines

-- Amy Hubbard+

Photo: A 2001 photo shows the Lap-Band, used in banding surgery to drastically reduce the stomach's size. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times