Bariatric surgeons such as Khalili, who has performed the Lap-Band procedure hundreds of times, worry that provocative campaigns like 1-800-GET-THIN promote surgery as a shortcut to weight loss. "The surgery is almost a secondary thing," said Khalili. "To make the operation successful, you have to have a lot of education and support before and after so that patients continue to make the right decisions to improve their health."
There's no doubt the FDA decision will generate a slew of new marketing efforts to promote the procedure, which usually requires an overnight stay in the hospital and can cost up to $30,000. The American Society of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery estimates that gastric banding accounted for 40% of all gastric surgeries in 2009, a percentage that's expected to soar now that millions of new patients are eligible for Lap Bands.
But the legal woes of the 1-800-GET-THIN program should serve as a warning for all healthcare providers not to get caught up in marketing campaigns that provide an incomplete picture of any procedure and its inherent risks.