A pair of southern California clinics that advertise via the 1-800-GET-THIN promotion have agreed to stop performing Lap-Band gastric band weight-loss procedure.
According to a report from L.A. Times, the clinics were told by the manufacturers of the Lap-Band device to stop offering the procedure and have dropped the clinics as customers. Allergan, the makers of Lap-Band, said they would no longer supply clinics participating in the 1-800-GET-THIN promotion with its device.
Five people in Southern California have died following Lap-Band procedures. These procedures were performed at just two clinics in California, one in Beverly Hills and another in West Hills. Earlier this week, the New Life Surgery Center in Beverly Hills and Valley Surgical Center in West Hills acted on Allergan’s request to stop performing the Lap-Band procedure.
Allergan is responding to a flood of lawsuits filed by people who’ve allegedly experienced serious or fatal consequences after receiving the Lap-Band at one of these participating clinics. The Lap-Band is designed to instantly shrink the size of the stomach, thus reducing an over-weight person’s appetite. The decision to halt Lap-Band procedures at the two southern California surgery centers is deemed temporary. The centers told L.A. Times they would complete a “top-to-bottom medical and operational review” of the procedures in place at each.
The 1-800-GET-THIN promotion and the clinics that utilize it are the focus of a widespread investigation, with the Food and Drug Administration, the California Dept. of Insurance, and Los Angeles County’s Board of Supervisors all looking into alleged fraud and malpractice claims blamed on the clinics. In southern California, billboards advertising the 1-800-GET-THIN promotion pepper the landscape, aggressively marketing the weight-loss procedure to that market.
There are several other wrongful death lawsuits tied to 1-800-GET-THIN. Another lawsuit, filed by former employees of participating surgery centers alleges conditions inside the facilities and procedures followed by staff put patients at risk. The whistleblower lawsuit claims the surgery centers performed unnecessary procedures and billed insurance companies for procedures never done in making accusations of fraud. The former employees also claimed they worked in unsanitary conditions, according to the report, which likely led to some complications suffered by Lap-Band recipients.
There have been many complications reported with the Lap-Band procedure, including problems with the device, a faulty procedure to implant it or the medications used during the surgery. After it’s implanted, the Lap-Band can slip from its position. The device is also prone to erosion and deflation. People receiving it can also suffer from reflux or an obstructed stomach, dilation of the esophagus. They are also more prone to infections and may suffer from nausea and vomiting.
Many times, these complications require corrective or revision surgery, increasing medical costs and the likelihood more problems will arise.