Win Lap Band Surgery? Inconceivable!

I guess that word doesn’t mean with I think it means because this week from the What The F&$# File:

It turns out several people I know received an e-mail from Allergan in December (just in time for the holidays) inviting them to enter a contest to win a free lap-band surgery.  I know it may seem unbelievable, but you read that right.  You may remember Allergan as the company who funded that astonishingly bad study that claims that ob*sity costs the workplace $73 Billion a year, then used that study to attempt to convince health insurance companies to pay for lap band surgery.  I blogged about that one already.

So, who/what is Allergan?

According to their website they are a “a multi-specialty health care company focused on discovering, developing and commercializing innovative pharmaceuticals, biologics and medical devices that enable people to live life to its greatest potential — to see more clearly, move more freely, express themselves more fully.”

They make:

  • Botox (Paralyzing your facial muscles with a neurotoxin seems antithetical to “move more freely”  but that’s another blog ).
  • Juvederm (If it goes wrong you can get hard lumps in your face that last for a year.  I’ll bet then you’ll be “expressing yourself more fully”  in your doctor’s office, screaming and pointing to the big lumps in your face.  )
  • Latisse (your eyelashes will most likely get longer and hey, the skin discoloration is only probably permanent.)
  • And yes, the Lap Band.  A band inserted during what Allergan refers to as a “major surgery”, used to make the stomach tiny, thereby forcing the patient to eat amounts consistent with what we see in people dealing with eating disorders.  I understand that it has a long-term success rate of less than 20% and Allergan admits that side effects include possible death.

Let me be clear that I absolutely support anyone’s choice to get botox, a lapband, a boob job, whatever. It’s your body, do whatever you want with it.  If you want to apply Latisse creatively and grow eyelashes on your ass, I’m here to respect that choice.

My problem is with the company making the profit off of these items saying that they are a health care company and acting like the Home Shopping Network.  I understand that marketing is used to position products in their best possible light so as to sell them to as many people as possible.  If you’re selling Snuggies it’s fine if you tout all the benefits and don’t bother to tell people that they can just wear their robe backwards. If you’re selling major surgery I don’t think that the same marketing techniques are ethical.

So, even if they had made an attempt at making this contest classy I would have found it inappropriate.  But don’t worry, they didn’t even make an attempt:

I’ve copied the complete text of the e-mail at the bottom of this blog, but let me point out some of the more egregious things:

“The contest program is a part of Allergan’s public advocacy campaign, launched in May 2010, called C.H.O.I.C.E. (Choosing Health over Obesity Inspiring Change through Empowerment)” They urge readers to “Sign the online petition to tell Congress it’s time to recognize obesity as a disease, NOT a choice, and focus on prevention and treatment, and accept all treatments, including weight-loss surgery for those 100 pounds or more overweight.” and Join the Facebook Cause Page. Tools are available to help you spread the word about the campaign and encourage your friends to join our movement.

Oh, this is a movement. I thought it was a for-profit corporation.  Wait – it IS a for-profit corporation.  It’s a publicly traded for-profit corporation and therefore its fiduciary responsibility is to its shareholders and not its clients.  This means that people being adversely affected by their products (dying, for example) can be considered an “acceptable loss”  as long as they stay on the good side of regulatory bodies and keep making money.

But they told us – this is public advocacy.   Wow, they do all this public advocacy and all they get for their trouble is a lousy $240 Million in sales last year (as they projected after Q3).  Selfless, that’s what they are.  Truly selfless.

[I’ll pause here to give you time to bang your head against a solid object.  Don’t worry, if it causes your forehead to wrinkle you can just get some Botox.)

Ok, dude:  You can’t “choose health over ob*sity” because they aren’t opposites.  They aren’t even causally related.  Being ob*se is not a disease, it is a ratio of weight and height.  You can be healthy, you can be fat, you can be fat and healthy), or you can be  “normal weight” and unhealthy.  No health issues are proven to be caused by being fat.  Some health issues are correlated with fatness but all that means is that they tend to happen at the same time, and weight stigma, weight cycling, and healthcare inequalities are all well researched contenders for being the actual cause. Scientifically speaking that means it’s just as likely the the health issues cause the body size, or that a third factor causes both.  This is basic sixth grade health class.  Allergan has SCIENTISTS working for them.  I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that they are getting it wrong on purpose to make a profit.  Call my a cynic.

They are giving away the surgery and a year of follow up care.

Many people have side effects for far longer than a year after their surgery – including the need to completely re-operate due to band slippage or erosion over time and other side effects.  Their e-mail isn’t clear about what this surgery could cost the “winners” over time (or if their insurance is going to cover those issues).

You can enter yourself or “A family member or close friend may also enter the contest on a person’s behalf.”

Were this my friend or family member I’m afraid I’d find myself in front of a judge trying to use the “Your Honor, he needed a killing” as a defense.

Seriously,  if someone is going to undertake a major surgery that carries with it risks including reflux, obstruction of the stomach, dilation of the esophagus, infection,  nausea and vomiting and, oh yeah, DEATH, it seems that it should be after careful consideration, not under the auspices of “Johnny, tell him what he’s won!”

Here’ s the full text (absent the links, obviously).  Warning :  side effects may include feeling stabbity  and losing some of your faith in humanity:

Enter the The Live My Choice Contest Program

To raise awareness of the challenges those 100 pounds or more overweight face and to highlight the critical need to ensure access to treatment, Allergan, Inc. has launched the Live My C.H.O.I.C.E. Contest Program to prov ide three individuals with a LAP-BAND® Adjustable Gastric Banding System procedure, performed by a certified LAP-BAND® System surgeon of their choice, and one year of follow-up care, compliments of Allergan, Inc. The contest program is a part of Allergan’s public advocacy campaign, launched in May 2010, called C.H.O.I.C.E. (Choosing Health over Obesity Inspiring Change through Empowerment).

The contest ends December 14th. To qualify you must meet the clinical criteria for the LAP-BAND® System procedure: Body Mass Index (BMI) of at least 40; BMI of at least 35 with one or more serious comorbid conditions; or be at least 100 pounds over your ideal weight as determined by a physician. To enter the contest, submit a short essay or video at [no effing way will you get this link here] about how your weight has impacted your health and life, and why the LAP-BAND® System may be the tool to help you achieve your weight-loss goal. A family member or close friend may also enter the contest on a person’s behalf.

Individuals selected to receive a LAP-BAND® System procedure will publicly share their weight-loss journey in an effort to inspire others who are severely obese to reclaim their health and their lives. As part of this Contest Program, Allergan will provide all entrants the opportunity to receive free telephone consultations with a health educator who can provide one-on-one support, such as assistance in finding a local patient seminar, access to more information and resources regarding the LAP-BAND® System.

More information about the contest, including details on the rules and eligibility, can be accessed at [not a chance of getting that link here].

Additional Ways to Get Involved in C.H.O.I.C.E.Sign our Petition to Congress: Sign the online petition to tell Congress it’s time to recognize obesity as a disease,1 NOT a choice, and focus on prevention and treatment, and accept all treatments, including weight-loss surgery for those 100 pounds or more overweight.
Join the Facebook Cause Page and Follow us on Twitter: Join the campaign Cause page on Facebook and follow updates on the campaign on Twitter. Tools are available to help you spread the word about the campaign and encourage your friends to join our movement.


Indications: The LAP-BAND® System is indicated for use in weight reduction for severely obese patients with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of at least 40, or a BMI of at least 35 with one or more severe comorbid conditions, or those who are 100 lbs. or more over their estimated ideal weight.

Contraindications: The LAP-BAND® System is not recommended for non-adult patients, patients with conditions that may make them poor surgical candidates or increase the risk of poor results (e.g., inflammatory or cardiopulmonary diseases, GI conditions, symptoms or family history of autoimmune disease, cirrhosis) who are unwilling or unable to comply with the required dietary restrictions, who have alcohol or drug addictions or who currently are or may be pregnant.

Warnings: The LAP-BAND® System is a long-term implant. Explant and replacement surgery may be required. Patients who become pregnant or severely ill, or who require more extensive nutrition, may require deflation of their bands. Anti-inflammatory agents, such as aspirin, should be used with caution and may contribute to an increased risk of band erosion.

Adverse Events: Placement of the LAP-BAND® System is major surgery and, as with any surgery, death can occur. Possible complications include the risks associated with the medications and methods used during surgery, the risks associated with any surgical procedure and the patient’s ability to tolerate a foreign object implanted in the body.

Band slippage, erosion and deflation, reflux, obstruction of the stomach, dilation of the esophagus, infection or nausea and vomiting may occur. Reoperation may be required.

Rapid weight loss may result in complications that may require additional surgery. Deflation of the band may alleviate excessively rapid weight loss or esophageal dilation.

Important: For full safety information, please visit [no, no, no, no link], talk with your doctor or call Allergan Product Support at [a galaxy of no on the 1-800 number].

CAUTION: Rx only.

© 2010 Allergan, Inc. Irvine, CA 92612. ® marks owned by Allergan, Inc.

30 thoughts on “Win Lap Band Surgery? Inconceivable!

  1. Ragen….I am up way to early for a gig this morning and I open my e-mail briefly and of course read your post. OMG…what a great way to start the day. I was laughing my butt off. I think my favorite is “he be needing a killing.” I have a friend who was just chastised by a doc about weight and told she needed to get surgery. She know better of course, but when your doc is ranting, you do sometimes doubt yourself. I am going to send her this post so she has a great start to her day as well.


    1. Hey Deb,

      I hope that the gig went very well! I’m glad that you liked the post. “He needed a killing” is a delightful expression that I learned in the South.

      I’m sorry to hear about your friend – I know it can be difficult when someone who is supposed to be an “expert” is pressuring you, even when you know you’re right. I hope that she finds the support she needs.


  2. Considering the dismal success rates of the lap-band and the severe side effects, I am appalled as to how this form of surgery was passed. Pardon my ignorance, but who approves and passes surgical procedures like this? A surgical board? Does it have to be approved by the government? Not that it is all that surprising that the government would approve it…just look at the FDA to see who’s really in control.

    1. Typically it has to be approved by the patient’s doctor and insurance company. The doctor’s charge 20-30K for the procedure and the insurance companies are seeing studies (that they may not know are funded by Allergan) that show that helping to pay for the surgery will save them money in the long run. It’s a ridiculous system.

  3. Wowzers! That’s just…disturbing, on so many levels. Of course you did win my Quote of the Day on Facebook with the, “Your honor, he needed a killing.” LOL!

    My husband works with a man who had this done. He already didn’t like the guy anyway, because he doesn’t do his job, but when he started going off about the surgery The Hubster has had to bite his tongue on more than one occasion in order to make sure he doesn’t make too many biting comments. I accept his right to choose what he does with his life, what I do not accept is his insistence that everyone who is even mildly overweight should be doing it.

    I couldn’t even read the whole quoted text. The need to be stabby this early in the morning is too much for me, especially while dealing with a sick kiddo. I would seriously have to give a beat down to someone if they signed me up for that contest. Seriously, it’s bad enough getting the VFHT from people, but that? No, just, NO!

    Thank you for continuing to be awesome. Unfortunately, while my socks are rocked, they will continue to remain on my feet as I am cold at the moment. 🙂

    1. Hi Karen,

      I am completely honored to be your QOTD! I hope that the kiddo is feeling lots better. I’m with you and your husband – people who can’t distinguish their experience from my experience are super annoying. And I’m glad that I could rock your socks while they simultaneously kept your feet warm.

  4. Thanks so much for the Stress Reduction Kit – it will come in so very VERY handy on a day like today, that started off bad & is heading to worse in a hurry!

    As far as VFHT’s go, I actually just spoke to an old college friend this AM who is now dying from advanced breast cancer – the fact that she stayed thin all her life does not seem to have extended her lifespan, how strange!

    Odder still that Allergan lists “100 lbs overweight” as one of its criteria, but of course will be HAPPY to implant a lap-band in someone like my cousin’s wife, who like me is at most 50-60 lbs over “ideal” weight…

    1. ugh, I hope that your day improved. I’m so very sorry to hear about your friend.

      Allergan is currently pushing Federal Regulators to drop the minimum weight at which a lap band is considered an appropriate “intervention” for the dreaded disease of being too short to meet your BMI requirement.

  5. There are more opportunities to win wls, unfortunately then just this. Even though I am an “armchair” anti-wls advocate, between family and most personal offline friends, most people in my circle have had the surgery. I end up making social network media contacts(aka fb buds) who are pre-op or “newbies” in what we call in wls world, which I still am given my circumstances. There are now wls advocates patients who have started foundations with partnerships with bariatric surgeons and manafacturers to give away free wls, like the rny. I have to wonder, because that particular foundation is new if they will give away free healthcare for the rest of the patients life if or more like likely WHEN they get complications.

    1. I just don’t think major surgery is something that you should win. Especially a major surgery with such a low success rate, so many complications, and no studies of long-term effects. I definitely worry about what will happen after the free surgery – will health insurances refuse to pay because the surgery will not be a “pre-existing condition”. It’s just a bad idea I think.

      1. Also, I definitely agree that giving any type of surgery like this away is WRONG. It’s SURGERY, not a car! Deciding to have any type of WLS should be a very private, very serious decision, not just something you win.
        A quick question, is it really considered a pre-existing condition now with the new healthcare reform?

    2. Hi, I just found this blog, and stumbled on this entry. I wanted to know why you (Lisa) became an anti-wls advocate. Let me explain, I had gastric bypass almost two years ago and have had no complications and it has completely changed my life (for the better), so to hear someone so adamantly be against it makes me curiousabout what makes you say that having complications is a matter of “when” rather than “if”. Also, how do your friends who’ve had the surgery feel about your stance against it?

  6. Princess Bride, my favorite movie EVER!!!
    I love reading your blog.Are you a Bay Area person?
    So, my sister had lap band surgery
    enough said
    she still weighs 400 pounds and hates herself now for being fat AND being a failure for not losing weight even with the lap band. The work you are doing is so important. Thank you

    1. You get 10 points and a gold star for picking up the reference 🙂 I am not a Bay Area person – I’m an Austin, Texas person but we’re often called the San Francisco of Texas!

      I’m very sorry to hear about your sister. I hope that she knows that she isn’t alone and that her results are what is typical and I hope that she finds what she needs to learn to love herself and her body. Thank you for all of the work that you do – you are such an inspiration 🙂


  7. I just stumbled onto the blog of a “happy, successful” lapbander …except that 18 months later, after her most recent “fill” (adjustment) she can’t even keep a sip of liquid down. I would be frozen with terror in that situation. She doesn’t seem to be too happy either.

    1. That poor woman. That happened to someone I know. They over-filled his band and couldn’t get him back to surgery for two weeks. They told him to freeze Slim Fast (which is a horrible idea because it’s full of laxatives) and eat one spoonful every 30 minutes all day. It was excruciating for him to wait for it to melt and be digested and he was starving constantly. Also, he found out it was overfilled when he took some medication so that pills stayed there for a couple days before they dissolved. It was horrible.

  8. “Obesity is not a disease, it is a ratio of weight and height.” That is exactly what i thought when i read the whole ‘let’s start a movement’ thing *rolls eyes*.
    This ‘let’s start a movement’ thing is just Allergan asking people to do their advertising for them – petition Congress, join the Facebook cause, use our tolls to spread the myth that obesity is a disease for which you need to purchase our product/service in order to “cure”… Incredible. And sadly, i’m sure there are many people out there brainwashed & confused by previous “movements” enough to support this one.

    Thanks for being a voice of clarity & reason on this.

      1. Exactly. I wish it was impossible to even imagine a pharmaceutical company being this manipulative in their advertising. Allowing millions of people to be classified as “diseased” so that they can make a buck is just shameful.

  9. The contest is over, they’ve chosen 3 people to get this procedure (I refuse to call them “winners”). They’ve also chosen 12 people to share their weight loss journey with Congress and the media, like that’s really necessary.
    I’m sorry, but if they get “obesity” classed as a disease, then fat people will be considered diseased, and held in even more contempt than we are now if we don’t get whatever “treatment” is offered, and if/when that “treatment” fails (as it inevitably does) we’ll get the brunt of the blame/shame (just like we do now, only more so because now, we’re “diseased” and we’re really screwing up our health, according to the medical community). Yeah, that’s not a place I want to go, nor something I want to see happening.

    1. I agree with you, Vesta. Not only that, but if it’s classified as a disease then it gives insurance companies even more to use against the overweight. Not only that, but I can see ramifications for parents of overweight children, like them possibly being taken away for neglect of care, if they do not have the “condition” “treated.” I look at my sweet son, and all I can think of is the horror that my husband and I would live through if that came to pass. It literally makes my blood run cold to think of it.

      1. I had originally hoped that at least if it was considered a disease then parents would stop being looked at as neglectful, but I fear that you are right that parents who aren’t willing to “treat” their kids are going to be subject to even worse scrutiny. All in the name of Allergan making money. It’s just horrifying.

    2. Plus, Congress can’t look at immediate results and draw conclusions. Over the long term their success rate is 20% and people are having tons of complications. Also, they are finding that these surgeries don’t actually cure diabetes, they just mask it so that people go off their meds and then have the potential for major issues.

      1. Yeah, unfortunately, I see a real possibility of “medical neglect” becoming an issue if obesity is classified as a disease. Just think of the parents who for one reason or another made the decision not to treat cancer and then the child is taken away from them so that the state can force treatment. It’s a frightening proposition to think that someone’s child could be forcibly removed from a home simply because they have excess weight and then forced to undergo invasive surgery, pills, harmful diets and who knows what else all in the name of “health.”

  10. First, your posts are always so informative and FUNNY! I’d be right there with you in front of the judge if someone entered me in that contest! You’d have to demand that a jury of your peers are 12 fat people, and you’d totally be found not guilty!
    I’m going to Weight Watchers, (turns out, in my case, the VFHT was real) and new person who had been banded has joined. So, It’s not the magic bullet it claims.
    Third, people in this industry are trying to get the weight lowered to 187, so more people will qualify as obese and in need of this surgery!
    Feel free to disagree with anything I’ve said.

  11. I am aghast at the prospect of a person “winning” this surgery, with its side effects, complications and risks of death. That is not a lottery I would want to win!

    People who deny that the weight loss industry exists need to be informed of nonsense like this. These companies will do anything to do more surgeries and sell more products. Our health is the *last* thing they care about.

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