Weight Loss Advertisements Found Deceptive and Misleading – Conspiracy and Healthcare Fraud Violations

The 1-800-GET-THIN ad campaign is embroiled in a criminal investigation for healthcare fraud and other violationsThe FDA and FBI are investigating.

“Federal agents arrested Tiffiny Burrows, a licensed vocational nurse, after she tried to sell medical records about two patients who died after Lap-Band surgeries to an attorney who has filed several lawsuits against 1-800-GET-THIN, Kelley said in an affidavit filed in Burrows’ case.

“The attorney, Alexander Robertson, reported the nurse’s offer to federal law enforcement officials. They gave him cash and ran an undercover operation that led to the woman’s arrest, according to the affidavit.

“With undercover agents watching, Robertson carried $75,000 in cash to a park in West Los Angeles on June 7 and met with the nurse, who arrived carrying a box of documents. The nurse gave the documents to Robertson, who handed her a satchel stuffed with cash, according to the affidavit…. Relatives of the dead patients alleged in wrongful-death lawsuits that 1-800-GET-THIN and its affiliated clinics failed to adequately warn patients about risks of the surgery and that doctors made numerous mistakes that led to the deaths…. 1-800-GET-THIN removed the ads this year after receiving a warning from the FDA that the ads were misleading because they failed to include adequate warnings about the surgery. Allergan Inc., the Irvine manufacturer of the Lap-Band, has said it would no longer sell the device to any companies affiliated with 1-800-GET-THIN. The toll-free number still connects callers to a recording that begins “Congratulations on taking the first step to reaching your weight-loss goals…. In April, the Los Angeles Police Department said detectives from its Robbery-Homicide unit were investigating the Sept. 8, 2011, death of Paula Rojeski after Lap-Band surgery at Valley Surgical Center in West Hills. The investigation is ongoing. Rojeski’s sister sued 1-800-GET-THIN, West Hills Surgery Center, three doctors and the Omidi brothers. The lawsuit alleges that defective medical equipment was used during Rojeski’s surgery and that medical records were falsified to hide mistakes that contributed to the woman’s death. The lawsuit is pending.”

The enforcement landscape for weight loss schemes has been tightened, both on the federal and state level. Weight loss products and services can no longer be offered with impunity in violation of various legal rules such as those by the:

  • FDA
  • FTC
  • state fraud and consumer protection agencies
  • medical, nursing, nutrition, dietetics, and other professional licensing boards

Even the chiropractic boards have jumped in with new regulation on therapies such as body sculpting. There are also new statutes subjecting medical spas that operate illegally to heavy penalties.

If you have a weight loss product, dietary supplement, or service as part of your clinical practice as an MD (medical doctor), DC (chiropractor), LAc (licensed acupuncturist), or otherwise, contact our healthcare legal team at the Cohen Healthcare Law Group for legal solutions. The Cohen Healthcare Law Group represents clinicians, practices, and businesses that need legal counsel regarding emerging and integrative healthcare products and services.

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