Congress questions 1-800-GET-THIN ads

Jan. 21, 2012 at 3:23 PM

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- U.S. lawmakers are calling for an investigation into ad campaigns that promote weight-loss surgery.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Beverly Hills, and two other House members called for the congressional hearings to examine whether 1-800-GET-THIN ads properly disclose the dangers of the surgical procedure, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.

The representatives also questioned the safety and long-term effectiveness of the Lap-Band, the device used in the surgery.

In a letter to chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Waxman said Congress should subpoena documents from 1-800-GET-THIN and Lap-Band manufacturer Allergan Inc.

"We believe the Committee should hold hearings to examine whether [Food and Drug Administration] device regulation has been ineffective in protecting the public from dangerous medical devices like the Lap-Band," Waxman and Reps. Diana DeGette, D-Colo. and John Dingell, D-Mich., said in the letter.

Since 2009, five patients have died after getting Lap-Band surgeries at 1-800-GET-THIN affiliated facilities, the newspaper said.

A spokeswoman for Allergan, of Irvine, Calif., said the device, a ring that is surgically implanted around the stomach to discourage overeating, is safe and effective, if "inserted by an experienced and qualified bariatric surgeon who offers the patient appropriate follow-up care."

In December, the FDA sent warning letters to 1-800-GET-THIN and some of its affiliated surgery centers, saying the ads were misleading and did not properly disclose the dangers of Lap-Band surgery.

Robert Silverman, president of 1-800-GET-THIN, said they responded to FDA concerns by adding a disclosure on its Web site that said Lap-Band procedures can result in death.

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