Allergan Seeks to Expand Fatty Pool for Lap-Bands

Allergan Inc., which is already rolling in it thanks to remedies such as Botox, Latisse and Natrelle breast implants, aims to roll in even more of it by increasing the fatty pool for its Lap-Band weight-loss devices.

The Irvine-based pharmaceutical company wants the government to decrease the minimum weights patients must be to safely use the implanted Lap-Bands--a notion that alarms some public-health officials.

Our old pal Stuart Pfeifer at the Los Angeles Times has the scoop.

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While everything else Allergan touches seems to turn to gold--its projected 2010 revenues are $4.8 billion, and company stock has soared 186 percent over the past decade, Pfeifer reports--Lap-Band sales fell more than 4 percent for the first nine months of 2010 to $182.4 million.

And so, Allergan has turned to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for help in pumping up the number of allowable stomach-banding surgeries. A silicone band that is implanted around the upper portion of the stomach, a Lap-Band creates a small pouch that holds a limited amount of food so patients feel full despite eating less.

Under current FDA guidelines, a person who stands 5-foot-10 and has no serious health issues would need to weigh 278 pounds or more to qualify for a Lap-Band, while someone with conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure must weigh at least 243 pounds. It is not intended for cosmetic purposes. 

Allergan wants the threshold dropped to 243 pounds for those with no health issues and 209 pounds for those with the specified conditions. Doing this would expand the Lap-Band customer base to 42 million people, up from 15 million now. An FDA committee has voted 8-2 in favor of Allergan's request.

But public health officials in Southern California and around the world contend Lap-Band surgery is, as Pfeifer writes, "an extreme, risky measure that should be considered only after diet, exercise and other less invasive strategies have failed." The Times man writes:

Many Lap-Band patients in Europe had severe complications over time, including band erosion, slippage or leakage, according to a study published in the medical journal Obesity Surgery.

. . .

"With a nearly 40 percent five-year failure rate . . . [banding] should no longer be considered as the procedure of choice for obesity," said the report.

Among those blasting the FDA panel's recommendation is New York attorney Stephanie Quatinetz, whose 27-year-old daughter died after Lap-Band surgery in 2009. Quatinetz points to studies that have found that stomach-banding surgeries can have significant side effects, including infection, dehydration, vomiting or pain--symptoms that may not surface for years.

Come on, Barbie pills.


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