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How Allergan Targets Poor Aussie Teens and Aborigines for Experimental Weight-Loss Surgery

Allergan (AGN) is the focus of criticism that it is targeting poor teenagers and members of Australia's famously downtrodden indigenous population as experimental surgery subjects in testing of its Lap-Band obesity surgery device.

The Centre for Obesity Research and Education (CORE) at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, recently publicized research that showed obese teenagers losing much more weight after Lap-Band surgery than their counterparts on a diet-and-exercise program. The study was given largely favorable headlines by Bloomberg, CNBC, Reuters, WebMD and other outlets.

Australia's ABC network, however, has highlighted Allergan's links to the study. While reports did note that Allergan had provided Lap-Bands for the study, it turns out that Allergan is CORE's major funding source, eight of the study's authors are affiliated with CORE, and author John Dixon is a consultant and advisory board member for Allergan. The Herald Sun adds:

What has not been reported is the comment in the study that "the recruitment methods may have drawn on a subset of the community attracted by the availability of free treatment".
In other words, the teenagers were quite possibly from a lower socio-economic group than average.
Among the side effects of the study were: third of those who received the gastric banding required follow-up surgery during the two-year study period.

Two of the patients received injuries during adjustments to the band, while six suffered "proximal gastric enlargement".

In addition, three of the teen girls in the 24-person Lap-Band arm of the study got pregnant after surgery, suggesting that the weight loss made them more likely to become sexually active -- yet contraceptive counselling was not part of the study.

Some health professionals are worried that the Lap-Band is being aggressively marketed as a simple solution that will work when diet and exercise fail:

DR SAMANTHA THOMAS: If you look at the gastric banding websites in Australia, you will see very commonly that they encourage people to cash in their superannuation, to take out financial support or loans to pay for the surgery.
CORE's next stop is among Australia's aborigines, who suffer disproportionately from obesity and diabetes.
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