By Karen Weintraub
Obesity rates continue to increase across the nation
Though Americans’ weight continues to climb, our use of weight loss surgery has topped out.
No one has precise figures, but one new study estimates that rates of bariatric surgery have been flat since 2004. So, if we’re still getting fatter, why aren’t we relying more on weight loss surgery, a surefire way to trim significant weight?
Some researchers say it’s because of cost. The surgery runs anywhere from $11,000 to $26,000, according to the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery. Even if insurance covers the procedure, there are copays and other expenses to the surgery, which probably deter lots of people. Plus patients are supposed to lose weight through diet and exercise before the procedure – but if they could do that, they might not need the surgery in the first place.
Others say that because excess weight doesn’t stop us in our tracks – even people who are hundreds of pounds overweight can hold down jobs and play with their kids – we underestimate the dangers of living with those extra pounds.
“You can be pretty highly functioning and be at significant risk and not really know it,” said Dr. David Lautz, director of bariatric surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “The risks associated with obesity can sneak up on you.” As you get heavier it’s harder to do the operation and harder to lose weight without an operation. Continue reading
Allergan seeks FDA approval to more widely target candidates for surgery using its weight-loss device
Here’s news that Allergan, the drug company that markets Botox, is seeking FDA approval to pursue a type of weight-loss surgery
currently only available for the truly obese.
Andrew Pollack, of The New York Times reports: “An advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration will consider on Friday a request by Allergan to significantly lower how obese someone must be to qualify for surgery using the company’s Lap-Band device, which restricts intake to the stomach.” (And costs from $12,000 to more than $20,000.)
He writes, for example, that “a person who is 5 feet 6 inches and has diabetes would have to weigh 216 pounds to qualify [for the surgery] now. Under the proposed lower threshold, that person could weigh 30 pounds less, or 186 pounds.”
If the agency approves the change, the number of Americans eligible for the Lap-Band operation could easily double, ensuring more sales for Allergan and probably more insurance coverage for such operations. But the proposed change, sought at a time when the obesity epidemic in the United States seems intractable, still leaves some people uneasy, in part because of side effects and failure rates. In addition, long-term weight reduction is hard to maintain.
“You’re talking about millions and millions of people who would meet these criteria,” said Dr. George Blackburn, associate director of the division of nutrition at Harvard Medical School. “Let’s make sure by the most rigorous research that this is safe and effective.”
But cautionary tales abound:
“Before they start putting the Lap-Band on patients who are 50 pounds overweight, the public has to be made aware of how dangerous this is,” said Stephanie Quatinetz, a New York lawyer whose daughter, Rebecca, died at age 27 in August 2009, two months after getting Lap-Band surgery.