FDA Approves Lap-Band Surgery For Not-As-Obese Patients

The folks at Allergan, the company behind the popular Lap-Band weight loss surgery, have 26 million reasons to cheer today. After all, that’s the number of potential new Lap-Band patients now that the FDA has lowered the minimum weight loss requirements for the procedure.

Previous to the FDA decision, most people hoping to get the Lap-Band surgery needed to have a BMI of at least 40. There were exceptions made for people with BMIs as low as 35 if they were experiencing obesity-related health problems.

Allergan had hoped to have both those numbers lowered by five — to 35 and 30, respectively — but the FDA only budged on the request to reduce the minimum for people with obesity-related illnesses.

Even so, that adds around 26 million people to Allergan’s potential client base. Right now, only 15 to 18 million people have access to the procedure.

The NY Times puts it in perspective thusly:

Under the previous rules, a person who is five-foot-six and has diabetes would have had to weigh 216 pounds to qualify. Now that person would have to weigh only 186 pounds.

“In order to target this therapy to patients who will benefit the most, the approved indication is limited to patients at the highest risk of obesity-related complications,” said a rep for the FDA.

Even though Lap-Band procedures are only approved for patients who have failed to lose weight by diet, exercise or medication, critics of the FDA ruling say many people who are only moderately obese will choose to undergo surgery.

F.D.A. Approves Band Device for Less Obese [NY Times]