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.”
- 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.
IMPORTANT LAP-BAND® SAFETY INFORMATION
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.