Big Fat Money Machine

Subtitle: Cashing in on the Obesity Epidemic

I have started this post several times… write & delete, repeat, delete… in part because a young mother of two in Illinois had to be life-flighted to hospital for emergency surgery over complications just 9 days after a bariatric proceedure. When I got a prayer request from a mutual friend, I found myself angry, praying oh no… not again, please God, please don’t let her become another statistic. One in every 200 customers (patients) die within 30 days of bariatric surgery so I didn’t want to write about this until her crisis had passed. Word is, she is doing okay now.

The other reason I write and delete is embarrassing. I am one of the 87 million, the 37.5% of American adults classified as obese (statistics source: CDC).

Yes, that is 87 million potiential customers for bariatric surgery so crank the math. That’s a whole lot of money. That’s also a potiential half a million dead fat people if ALL obese adults can be talked into surgery.

Okay, so a 0.5% mortality of 87 million is only 390,000 but I rounded up because that tooted low mortality rate, from what I understand, is for ALL proceedures and does not count people who die from complications (or suicide) on day 31 or 67 or day 212. Some proceedures have lower mortality rates than others. Allergan, Inc. (NYSE: AGN) cites a 0.05% mortality rate for their LAP-BAND® implant, so only one of two thousand (instead of one in two hundred) die within 30 days of that surgery. I’ve yet to find the actual data for other individual proceedures… that 0.5% is most often quoted, sometimes with a “much safer now as it used to be 1%” spin, but who knows if it is lower now because docs have more experience or if the 1:2000 thirty day mortality rate of LAP-BAND® proceedures has sugarcoated the overall stats so they can quote the “low” 0.5% kind of as a marketing ploy.

If you think bariatric surgery is used only as the absolute “last resort” for the extremely obese who could drop dead any moment anyway, think again. The FDA has lowered the min. BMI required for LAP-BAND® implants down to 30. How fat is someone with a BMI of 30? Well, it depends on your height. For a short person, that’s only 28 pounds over “normal” weight.

Yes, I hit the FDA’s BMI charts because I wanted to know what numbers would get these people off my back… how low do I need to go to be ineligibe for bariatric surgery? At what point will they STOP trying to sell me on the idea?

Now I’ve got this shrink trying to talk me into it. I am very disappointed about that because this is the first time in my life that a doc (my doc) was willing to address the problem (he put a name to it: binge eating disorder) instead of the symptom (excess weight). Of course, this is the first doc that I was straight up and honest about how I gained the weight. He hooked me up with this shrink to address the problem in my head with cognitive behavior therapy. This shrink is supposed to be a great therapist, but the only thing he has successfully done is piss me off enough to cop an attitude – by george, I am going to recover from B.E.D., with or without his help.

This shrink has revealed that he, himself, is a “grazer” who eats all night long (sorry, I’m not you?) with a sister in OA (so he knows a bit about that but from what he’s said, he thinks its a diet club), his own son recently had bariatric surgery, and he does “a lot” of those pre-surgical psych evals required by insurance companies before they agree to fund bariatric surgeries.

Now THAT is scary… it is scary because my research for stats last week came across a list of reasons for shrinks to FAIL a potiential customer’s psych eval in a paper written by a doc for docs in a medical journal (reliable source) and I have THREE things on that list. Even if we ignore two as done dealt with, not a problem, what the hell is he doing suggesting bariatric surgery to someone with binge eating disorder?

I have no idea what he charges for the psych eval, but a quick google search tells me that some shrinks charge as much as $550 for less than an hours work… a one 45 minute interview and a test, with results faxed to the surgeon who will make the ultimate decision. Oh yeah, money trickles down the feed chain, selling surgical options is a sure fire cash cow, one big fat money making machine.

Perhaps I should be quiet and not write my thoughts on this… but if I am feeling pressured into opting for bariatric surgery, how many of the 87 million potiential customers just in the United States are also feeling pressured? Bariatric surgery is being sold as the end-all, be-all, only viable option out there.

If writing this saves one person from becoming another statistic, then it was worth writing.

Bottom line, my dear bloggy friends, if the problem is in your frikken head, mutilating your gut is not going to fix it. Treat the problem, not the symptom. Recovery IS possible. Thank you for reading my rambles.