2 centers related to 1-800-GET-THIN to halt Lap-Band surgeries

1-800-get-thin billboard

Corey Bridwell/KPCC

A Google Maps screenshot of a Lap-Band billboard on W 11th Street, Los Angeles, Calif. The billboards are under fire after the FDA criticized their misleading displays.

Two surgery centers of the eight associated with the 1-800-GET-THIN marketing campaign are halting scheduling of new Lap-Band procedures, the company announced Tuesday.

A statement was released by the surgery centers saying: "Recent allegations question the safety of the Lap-Band procedures at two centers. While we strongly believe these allegations paint a false picture of the care provided overall and discount our capabilities and success rate, we have stopped scheduling new Lap-Band surgeries at those centers."

The statement also said the allegations are "unfounded and without merit," but that new surgeries have been halted "pending a top-to-bottom review."

The statement did not say who would conduct the investigation.

The patients had been treated at clinics in Beverly Hills and West Hills, according to autopsy reports and lawsuits.

Last week, the company that manufactures the adjustable gastric bands used in surgeries at those clinics announced it would no longer supply them with the devices. The only other company that manufactures adjustable gastric bands approved in the U.S. for weight loss surgery says it has not, and will not, sell its device to the eight surgery centers.

The company says the decision by the manufacturers does not affect its ability to continue the procedures.

Five Southern Californian patients have died since 2009 after undergoing lap band surgeries at clinics related to 1-800-GET-THIN, according to investigations by the Los Angeles Times.

The California Department of Insurance is investigating the surgery centers for possible fraud. That inquiry follows a recent federal reprimand by the FDA against the surgery centers and their marketing campaign for failure to adequately warn consumers about serious risks associated with the weight-loss surgery. They've also received criticism from members of Congress.

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