Allergan, maker of the ubiquitously advertised Lap-Band, cautions on its website that the weight-loss device is "not recommended for non-adult patients." The company would like to remove that warning, but to do so, it needs federal approval.
As Times staff writer Stuart Pfeifer recently reported, the Irvine-based company is asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to approve the Lap-Band for use in obese teenagers as young as 14 who meet certain criteria. Approval would also allow the company — as well as clinics and doctors — to market the band, which is surgically fitted over part of the stomach to discourage overeating, to those teens. Despite the demand for new obesity-fighting methods, though, the FDA should take a conservative approach, holding fast to the warning against teen use at least until far more extensive study has been completed.
Doctors already can perform Lap-Band surgery on teenagers (with parental consent), just as they can prescribe drugs for "off-label" uses that have not received the FDA's blessing. That's because the FDA doesn't regulate the actions of doctors in these matters but of manufacturers. In some cases Lap-Band surgery might be justified for a teenager: His or her weight might be so extreme, for example, and cause such troubling health problems that the risks of not doing the surgery outweigh the FDA's recommendations.