L.A. County supervisors order review of Lap-Band advertising

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Expressing concern about the 1-800-GET-THIN ads for Lap-Band surgery, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday asked county lawyers to study what steps the county can take to regulate the billboard advertising.

Supervisors also directed county executives to pursue legislation in Sacramento to give the state new oversight over outpatient surgery centers, including those at which Lap-Band procedures are performed. And it directed public health officials to study a public awareness campaign that would encourage healthy ways for people to lose weight and keep it off.

The board’s action came one week after the Food and Drug Administration accused the 1-800-GET-THIN marketing company of false advertising for failing to adequately disclose risks of the surgery in ads on Southern California freeway billboards, buses, radio, television, the Internet and through direct mail.

The hearing was highlighted by a heated exchange between Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and Robert Silverman, president of the 1-800-GET-THIN marketing company. Yaroslavsky said he was disappointed that Silverman would not provide specific details about the company’s business relationship with the surgery centers at which the procedures are performed.


“It’s been a long time since a member of the public has come to that table and has obfuscated as consistently and persistently as you have today,” Yaroslavsky told the 1-800-GET-THIN official. “I did not come here today as a person who had a fundamental suspicion one way or the other about what you are doing. I leave here feeling you are hiding something.”

After the FDA took action, Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Zev Yaroslavsky scheduled Tuesday’s hearing to address their concerns about the advertising. Five Southern California patients have died since 2009 following Lap-Band procedures at clinics affiliated with 1-800-GET-THIN, according to lawsuits, autopsy reports and other public records.

Before the meeting, an official with 1-800-GET-THIN sent a letter to Ridley-Thomas disclosing that the company had already initiated efforts to change the ads to address the FDA’s concerns.


Full coverage: Lap-Band investigation

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Lap-Band maker issues own advertising guidelines

-- Stuart Pfeifer