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Valencia Surgery Center Gets Warned By Feds About Lap Band Marketing

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday it has taken action against eight California surgical centers and the marketing firm 1-800-GET-THIN LLC, for misleading advertising of the Lap-Band, an FDA-approved device used for weight loss in obese adults.

The FDA issued Warning Letters to Bakersfield Surgery Institute Inc.; Beverly Hills Surgery Center; Palmdale Ambulatory Center; Valley Surgical Center (West Hills); Top Surgeons LLC (Beverly Hills); Valencia Ambulatory Center LLC; Cosmopolitan Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery (Valencia); San Diego Ambulatory Center LLC; and to 1-800-GET-THIN because Lap-Band is a restricted medical device that is misbranded as a result of misleading advertising by these groups.

In the letters, the FDA warns that billboards and advertising inserts used by recipients of the Warning Letters to promote the Lap-Band procedure fail to provide required risk information, including warnings, precautions, possible side effects and contraindications. The FDA also is concerned that the font size of information related to risks on the advertising inserts is too small to be read by consumers.

“The FDA takes seriously its responsibility to protect consumers from products promoted without adequate warnings,” said Steve Silverman, director of the Office of Compliance in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “It’s particularly troublesome when advertisements don’t communicate the serious risks associated with medical devices.”

If the affected companies do not change the advertising and promotion strategies to address the concerns raised by the FDA, the agency is prepared to take further action, which could include product seizure or civil money penalties.

The Lap-Band is a gastric band, an implanted medical device used in a surgical procedure for weight loss in obese adults who have a body mass index (BMI) of 30-40, with one or more obesity-related medical conditions (such as type II diabetes and hypertension), or in patients with a BMI of 40 or over with or without an obesity-related medical condition.  Gastric banding is used when non-surgical weight loss methods (such as supervised diet, exercise and behavior modification) have not been successful. Patients considering gastric banding must be willing to make major changes in their eating habits and lifestyle.

“The decision to undergo a gastric banding procedure should be done in close consultation between a patient and his or her health care provider,” said Kimber Richter, M.D., deputy director for medical affairs in the Office of Compliance in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “It is important for the patient to fully understand both the risks and the benefits of the procedure and for the health care provider to be sure the procedure is appropriate for the patient.”

The Lap-Band has not been approved for use in children younger than 18. Only those who are able and willing to follow dietary and other health and lifestyle recommendations should consider the procedure. It’s important that patients and their physicians are aware of and understand the limitations of gastric banding.

Health care providers who choose to promote the gastric banding procedure are required to educate patients about the risks involved, which must also be included in any advertising and promotional materials. Patients considering the surgery should read the patient information provided by their doctor and should ask any questions they have about gastric banding before having surgery.

If you suspect a problem with a gastric banding device, the FDA encourages you to file a voluntary report through MedWatch1, the FDA Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting program. Prompt reporting of adverse events can help the FDA identify and better understand the risks associated with medical devices.

ABOUT THE FDA

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.