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Lap-Band Maker Allergan Dumps Dubious Doctors From Its Website

Lap-Band Maker Allergan Dumps Dubious Doctors From Its Website

Picture of William Heisel

lap-band, william heisel, antidote, reporting on health, weight loss

It would be interesting to see exactly what evidence finally tipped the scales at Allergan.

As Antidote noted nearly a year ago, Allergan, the maker of the Lap-Band surgical device, claims to puts patient safety first. As CEO David Pyott said in the Los Angeles Times, "We put patients' welfare and safety at the top, so I wouldn't support it." The "it" is the type of marketing being used by clinics and surgeons who are part of the "1-800-GET-THIN" campaign.

Yet, despite its public pronouncements, it has done very little to actively discourage this marketing or the dangerous practices that have gone along with it.

This changed last week when Allergan decided to stop selling Lap-Bands to clinics who work with the 1-800-GET-THIN marketing firm. Stuart Pfeifer and W.J. Hennigan at the Los Angeles Times wrote:

Allergan Inc. said in a statement that it has "made the decision to presently discontinue the sale of the Lap-Band to all entities affiliated with 1-800-GET-THIN."

The Irvine company's action Thursday comes amid state and federal investigations of surgery centers affiliated with 1-800-GET-THIN, which touts the Lap-Band procedure on Southland freeway billboards and on TV, radio and the Internet.

A representative for the surgery centers issued a statement saying the clinics were disappointed with Allergan's decision but would continue working with patients who want to lose weight.

As Antidote explained before, of course Allergan does not want patients to have bad outcomes. It wants people to lose weight and be living examples of why people should buy its products. It was in a tricky spot last year, though. It was pushing for FDA approval to expand the use of the devices. The FDA, somewhat surprisingly, said "yes." Now, an even broader group of people is eligible for Lap-Band surgery.

So Allergan may feel like it got what it wanted from the FDA and is now free to jettison some of its more problematic clients.

Last year, when Antidote researched the clinics and doctors being promoted as Lap-Band surgeons on the company's own website, it found some who:

  • Lacked the necessary board certification to prove they are skilled in bariatric medicine
  • Had been in trouble with state medical boards
  • Had been implicated in patient deaths.

When we went back to check the site's "Find a LAP-BAND® System Certified Surgeons in Your Area," we found that some of the doctors who were promoted earlier have now been removed from the site. These include:

  • Dr. Kevork George Tashjian. Tashjian had been featured on the Allergan site with a schedule of free Lap-Band seminars. He is one of the doctors who receives referrals from the 1-800-GET-THIN campaign. The Medical Board of California filed a complaint in November 2009 charging Tashjian with three counts of gross negligence related to two patient deaths and another patient who was injured. The board in November 2010 filed an amended accusation, charging Tashjian with repeated negligent acts and dropped one of the patient deaths from the case. He was given a public reprimand by the board in April 2011. Tashjian is neither certified by the American Board of Surgery nor the American Board of Bariatric Medicine.
  • Dr. Atul Madan. Madan had been featured on the Allergan site along with his free seminars. Also part of the 1-800-GET-THIN campaign, Madan is certified by the American Board of Surgery but not by the American Board of Bariatric Medicine. Last year he was under investigation by the Medical Board of California in two cases where patients died following Lap-Band surgeries performed by him, according to a piece Stuart Pfeifer wrote in the Los Angeles Times. No charges have been filed by the board, though, and mysteriously, his license has been cancelled in California.

None of these doctors are featured on the site anymore. Check for yourself and let me know if you find any doctors with questionable pasts still being highlighted by Allergan. Feel free to share in the comments below, email me directly at askantidote@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter @wheisel.

Related Posts:

Lap-Band Billboards Finally Catch FDA's Attention

Slap: Lap-Band Doctors Paint Newspaper Reporters as Gangsters

A Lap-Band for every pot belly? Health journalists, patient advocates pay heed

Allergan helps questionable weight loss clinics go fishing for Lap-Band patients

Controversy comes at a bad time for Lap-Band maker looking to expand market

Irresponsible marketing for Lap-Bands may have deadly consequences

Photo credit: Shockingly Tasty via Flickr

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