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Allergan Threw Cash at Surgeons; Now Its Implanted Weight Loss Device Sells Itself

By an amazing coincidence, 31 of 35 bariatric surgery doctors behind a new web site called "Doctors of Weight Loss" received grants of up to $10,000 from Allergan (AGN), maker of the Lap-Band stomach constrictor. This is good news for Allergan, as DoctorsofWeightLoss.com touts Lap-Band surgery without any of the off-putting legal mumbo-jumbo about safety that Allergan would have to go through if it were touting the product itself.

For example, a blog post by Dr. Emma Patterson of Oregon hails the Lap-Band for women who want to achieve their "bikini weight":

With the FDA's recent approval of the LAP-BAND® for patients with a BMI as low as 30, many new LAP-BAND® patients are looking to achieve what they consider 'bikini weight', and are particularly excited about the increased privacy these micro tools can provide.
The Lap-Band is not actually approved for giving you a smokin' beach bod. Rather, it's for patients with a body-mass index greater than 30 who have failed with other weight loss interventions. (A 5'3'' woman would have to weigh more than 170 pounds to qualify, for example.)

On the site, nine of the doctors disclose that they've worked for Allergan in their bios, but if you plug the docs' names into Allergan's physician payment database it turns out that all but five were on Allergan's payroll last year. The site itself is registered to a company called Domains By Proxy, whose sole task is to keep secret the real owners of web site URLs. Its motto is:

Your identity is nobody's business but ours.
DOWL administrator Emma Squillace told me the site has nothing to do with Allergan, and receives no funding from the company. Patterson, DOWL's founder, has been a consultant to Allergan and chose the initial group of surgeons based on who she knows, which is why it's heavy with Allergan connections, Squillace said. Allergan added:

Allergan has no affiliation or involvement with doctorsofweightloss.com.

Allergan has been criticized for turning a blind eye to lax marketing of the Lap-Band after billboards went up in Southern California advertising the product as if it were a quick fix, with headlines like, "Diets fail! The Lap-Band works!" Although Allergan isn't directly connected to any of these efforts, it's thrown so much money at bariatric surgeons it doesn't need to be.

Image from Flickr user Dan Century, CC.
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