Accreditation Denied for Clinic Tied to 1-800-Get-Thin Campaign
The Joint Commission has denied accreditation to the New Life Surgery Center in Beverly Hills, one of several facilities in Southern California that were associated with the 1-800-GET-THIN marketing campaign, the Los Angeles Times reports (Pfeifer, Los Angeles Times, 8/21).
The Lap-Band procedure is used to treat obesity by surgically implanting a ring around the stomach to discourage overeating.
In December 2011, FDA sent warning letters to the 1-800-GET-THIN marketing campaign for the Lap-Band procedure and its affiliated surgery centers regarding ads that it said were misleading about the surgery.
The company later added a disclosure to its website, saying the surgeries can result in death.
Since 2009, five Southern California patients have died after having the Lap-Band procedure, according to autopsy reports, lawsuits and public records (California Healthline, 2/6). Three of the surgeries took place at the New Life Surgery Center, according to the Times (Los Angeles Times, 8/21).
According to health insurer Aetna, the California Department of Insurance is investigating the business practices of weight-loss surgery centers associated with the marketing initiative.
In June 2012, two former employees of a surgery center associated with the 1-800-GET-THIN marketing campaign filed a lawsuit alleging that the centers used improperly sterilized equipment during Lap-Band weight-loss surgeries and failed to notify several patients who might have been exposed to hepatitis C.
In addition, members of the U.S. House last year called for an investigation into the advertisements, as well as the safety and effectiveness of the Lap-Band device.
In February, Allergan announced that it would sell its Lap-Band unit within the first half of the year (California Healthline, 2/6).
Details of Accreditation Denial
Bret Coons -- a Joint Commission spokesperson -- said that the decision to deny accreditation took effect on Aug. 7 and that the center has "exhausted" all of its "review and appeal opportunities" (Los Angeles Times, 8/21).
However, Coons did not disclose any specific reasons for why the Joint Commission denied accreditation to the center.
The center is unable to perform many surgeries without the commission's accreditation, but it remained open this week (AP/U-T San Diego, 8/21).
Mark Faulkner -- an attorney who represents the New Life Surgery Center -- in an email said that the owner "does not agree with the decision of the Joint Commission and believes that it is flawed on both factual and procedural grounds."
Faulkner added that the center "is currently evaluating its options" (Los Angeles Times, 8/21).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.