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JEREMY HOBSON: You know that lap band surgery that some people use to lose weight? Well yesterday, the FDA approved the surgery for a whole lot more people. People who aren’t as heavy. The decision could have major financial implications for the company that makes the technology — California-based Allergan and for health care costs.
Let’s bring in Marketplace’s Eve Troeh for more on this story. She’s with us live from Los Angeles. Good morning.
EVE TROEH: Hi Jeremy.
HOBSON: So tell is about the financial implications here Eve.
TROEH: Well, they’re pretty big — for Allergan especially. The new rules double the number of people who can get lap band surgery to about 26 million. That means lots more sales. The band itself is this inflatable silicon ring that blocks off part of your stomach. What Allergan asked the FDA to do — and it did — was lower the body mass index, or BMI, that patients need to qualify. BMI is a complicated so you can think of it this way: Someone who’s 5’6″ and has diabetes used to have to weigh 216 pounds to get a lap band. Now they only have to weigh 186.
HOBSON: Wow so a big change there. What are the implications, Eve, for the health care industry?
TROEH: Well, some experts say this tips the scale in favor of surgery to deal with obesity, rather than medications. The lap band is only prescribed for people who’ve tried diets, exercise and drugs to lose weight. But some people say the FDA is actually driving people toward surgery with this move because it hasn’t approved very many weight loss drugs.
HOBSON: Marketplace’s Eve Troeh in Los Angeles. Thanks Eve.
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