UK Daily Star | May 29, 2011
Health bosses in the US are being asked to approve gastric bands for obese 14-year-olds – a trend experts fear could happen in the UK.
If the Food and Drug Administration rubber-stamps the move, overweight teens in Britain are likely to be targeted in a huge ad campaign by pharmaceutical giant Allergan.
Its gastric band, known as the Lap Band, helped boost the firm’s US profits to £2.9billion last year.
The device, a silicone ring fitted around the stomach, can be surgically inserted in America for about £6,637.
Company spokesman Cathy Taylor said: “We are already conducting clinical trials on teenage patients aged 14 up.
“We have identified a significant need with the increasing rate of obesity in the younger population.”
The procedure is performed under a general anaesthetic but critics claim complications can occur.
In California four adults have died in the past two years within days of undergoing Lap Band surgery.
And Taylor Blackburn, who had one fitted in 2008 aged 14 with her parents’ consent, had it removed two years later after allegedly suffering side effects.
Diana Zuckerman, president of America’s National Research Centre for Women and Families, said: “I’m concerned that FDA approval would send the wrong message.
“That message would be that it is a safe way to lose weight. But there are risks attached.”
FDA approval would still mean people under 18 requiring parental consent for surgery. But it would also allow Allergan to market its product to teenagers for the first time.
A spokesman for UK charity the National Obesity Forum said: “We would not want to see gastric band ops for under-18s become routine.
“Parents should not look at it as an easy get-out clause.
“We would like parents to stop this problem before it gets too far by making sure children eat healthily and exercise.
“In certain circumstances, especially where a child’s life is at risk because of its weight, a gastric band op for teens can be necessary. But this should only ever be a last resort.”