In a week of good news about the Lap-Band and successes with the Lap-Band in a study by the FDA, Apollo (the new Lap-Band owners) has played hardball with those who seek to diminish the brand. They raised the prices of the lapband for those who are non-contracted.
Reason: Aggressive stance
What was shared was “we have not had a price increase in five years.” The key though is getting rid of the surgeons who rarely put in a band, allowing those who are serious about the band a competitive pricing edge. Those on contract do not have a price increase.
BRILLIANT MOVE – too many surgeons have put in the band, with little support to patients, or as an afterthought to their practice.
The rise of the gastric sleeve is secondary to surgeons who used the direct-to-consumer advertising to bait-and-switch people into another form of weight loss surgery. Those surgeons would talk people out of the band and into a sleeve. Not that there is anything wrong with the gastric sleeve, but the rise of gastric sleeve surgeries came from the direct to consumer advertising for the Lap-Band.
Second Aggressive Move
Apollo has worked to protect the brand Lap-Band, by going after those who use that name to bring patients in for other operations. This means those surgeons who use Lap-Band in name or advertising, but not for the operation, will find themselves at the wrong end of a legal fight. Especially those surgeons who freely advertise to get rid of the Lap-Band and replace it with a gastric sleeve.
Apollo with its new Direct-to-consumer advertising is showing amazing skill at weeding out those surgeons who are not interested in doing the band and protecting themselves. This is good for the public, who want to have bands placed by those who care about the band and care about after care.
The Lap-Band isn’t for all Weight Loss Surgeons
There are those surgeons who place the Lap-Band and who know that teaching patients how to use the band is key to success. Apollo clearly marked that they were supporting these surgeons. Those surgeons who leave aftercare of the band to others, or who find it doesn’t work well for them are not welcome in the new tent.
In the hands of those surgeons who do bands frequently the success of the Lap-Band is clear. We recently reported about the FDA monitored trial for low BMI patients. While there are surgeons who have high revision rates, high slip rates, and remove bands – clearly there is another group of surgeons who follow their patients, and have dramatically different results.
Dr Mark Fusco of Florida said, “Love the band. Have done over a thousand in the same small town over the last ten years. How silly would it sound to say that you no longer did colon cancer surgery because “it doesn’t work in everybody”. If you think the other operations “always” work at five years you are deluding yourselves. Just like patient’s shouldn’t get bypasses by surgeons who just dabble in the occasional bypass, patient’s should not get bands by programs that are not fully committed to the band. If they do what they get is a 40% revision rate.”
Apollo has clearly seen the difference. While small series in the literature report revision and removal rates, large series show from surgeons who have programs built around the band show great success with high patient satisfaction.
The gastric band remains the safest choice for weight loss. It is still the most requested weight loss operation. Those who cannot do the after care required and teach patients to use their band should not be doing the band. The band, like any tool, requires multiple visits to the surgeon, both for adjustments and for teaching. Common mistakes made by novice surgeons is that the band is “restrictive,” or that the band will “make you feel full.” Such tenants are not only against what is known from the literature, but ultimately lead to upper pouch dilation, leading to reflux and heartburn, increasing difficulty with solid food, and ultimately a band slip.
The new commercial: seen above is a major step forward.
Dr. Terry Simpson
Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. He found he liked people more than petri dishes, and received his MD. Dr. Simpson, then became a renowned weight loss surgeon, and a leading advocate of culinary medicine. The first surgeon to become certified in Culinary Medicine, he advocates teaching people to improve their health through their food. On the other side of the world, he has been a leading advocate of changing health care to make it more "relationship based," and his efforts awarded his team the Malcom Baldrige award for healthcare in 2011 for the NUKA system of care in Alaska. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.” For media inquiries, please visit www.terrysimpson.com.