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FDA wants changes to Lap-Band surgery advertisements

The Food and Drug Administration says the ads do not accurately communicate the risks associated with the procedure.

December 13, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
The federal government is going after a marketing company and eight surgery centers in Southern California because of their Lap-Band surgery advertisements.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says they do not accurately communicate the risks associated with the procedure.

The FDA wants the consumer to be absolutely clear on what the side effects are of the Lap-Band procedure.

Some of those side effects include irritation of the esophagus, vomiting in some cases, nausea, even infection.

The FDA says Lap-Band ads do not provide mandatory information about the risks and the side effects of the procedure or "...They appear so small as to render the information illegible."

But Brian Oxman, the attorney for the Pasadena-based marketing firm that handles 1-800-GET-THIN, says that's not true.

"Our disclosures are more thorough, more visible then anybody in the industry," said Oxman.

Even so, Oxman goes on to say they will make changes to the ads if that's what the FDA wants.

"If the FDA wants bigger, better, they are sure entitled to it. We aren't going to create any kind of issue there," said Oxman.

Although thousands of consumers have had Lap-Band surgery to lose weight, five patients since 2009 have died shortly after the Lap-Band procedure at clinics affiliated with the 1-800-GET-THIN ad campaign.

"The complication rates of the people which who 1-800-GET-THIN works with are lower than the gold standard in the industry, in other words we meet and beat everybody's complication rates by being lower and being better," said Oxman.

The FDA says that the 1-800-GET-THIN businesses and the surgical centers have 15 business days to make changes to the disclosures so that they're easier to read.

"I don't think by looking at those billboards that you can make a rational decision if this procedure is right or wrong for me," said Dr. Matthew Lublin, a bariatric surgeon who performs gastric banding at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica.

Lublin says it's important for obese patients to understand that losing weight is only a side benefit of the operation.

"We're really doing this operation to improve quality of life, increase life span and live a healthier life," Lublin said.

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