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FDA rejects 1-800-GET-THIN's proposed corrections to its 'misleading' advertising; must include death warning

A billboard for the Lap Band over the 210 freeway.
Corey Bridwell/KPCC
A billboard for the Lap Band over the 210 freeway.

The Food and Drug Administration has cracked down on the 1-800-GET-THIN ad campaign that has promoted weight-loss surgery at several Southern California clinics. The company behind 1-800-GET-THIN has halted all its advertising.

The 1-800-GET-THIN campaign was hugely successful — it promoted LapBand weight-loss surgery on billboards, radio, TV and online for eight California surgery centers. Then, last December, the FDA issued a reprimand, calling the campaign “misleading.” In January, the company submitted proposed corrections.

The FDA responded on May 9 with a four-page letter that says more corrections are necessary.

The letter spelled out a number of directives, including a call for the 1-800-GET-THIN ads to clearly state that LapBand surgery “may result in serious injury or death.” The surgery centers are facing several lawsuits after five patients died following LapBand procedures.

1-800-GET-THIN says that, for now, it has canceled all print and broadcast advertising.

Chris Wahl, a spokesman for the 1-800-GET-THIN campaign and its associated surgery centers, told KPCC that his clients asked billboard companies to remove the 1-800-GET-THIN ads back in December, and did so again after receiving the latest FDA letter.

But the letter also said that merely asking the billboard companies to remove the ads “is inadequate.” The FDA ordered the 1-800-GET-THIN marketers to remove all remaining non-compliant ads immediately — or face “enforcement action” that could include seizure of products, financial penalties and injunctive action.

Meanwhile, Chris Wahl says 1-800-GET THIN will work closely with the FDA to ensure that any new ads are in full compliance with federal regulations.