gastric bypass surgery

  1. Follow the money on gastric bypass research

    Follow the money on gastric bypass research

    When it comes to your health, it's best not to take shortcuts. But in our quick-fix culture, everyone is always looking for the "magic bullet" to eliminate health issues. Nowhere is this more evident than with the dangerous practice of gastric bypass surgery.

    Forget healthy eating and physical activity-just cut all your cares away with one simple procedure! The problem is, in spite of its popularity, gastric bypass surgery can be deadly.

    Unfortunately, a new study just came out that I'm afraid will be putting more and more people with weight problems under the knife - not because of the perceived health benefits, but because of the cost effectiveness of the surgery.

    According to a new study published in The American Journal of Managed Care, bariatric surgery can "pay for itself" by reducing the number of insurance claims filed by people with morbid obesity. The study claims that insurance companies can recoup the cost of these surgeries - which range from $17,000 to $26,000 per patient - in two to four years.

    But if you ask me, the legitimacy of this so-called study is immediately suspect. Why? Becauseit was funded by Johnson & Johnson's Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Inc. - a major manufacturer of bariatric surgical instruments. Obviously, this company stands to make a HUGE profit if insurance companies start to cover the cost for bariatric surgeries. Has my "follow the money" principal ever been more nakedly obvious?

    Of course, the study's lead author, Pierre-Yves Cremieux, claims that the basics of his study were conducted prior to J&J coming up with financial backing. But pardon me if I'm skeptical to the point of thinking that this is complete and utter nonsense.

    Case in point: the study's co-author is Dr. Scott Shikora, the president of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery. Think that the members of Dr. Shikora's organization could stand to make a couple of extra bucks if this the results of this "study" catch on in the insurance industry?

    "Bariatric surgery is a unique field in that with one operation you can cure a wide range of different health conditions," said Shikora. "This paper demonstrated that you can do that and actually save money in the process."

    Lost in all this price-taggery on human health is the simple fact that these bariatric surgeries can kill you - as many as five percent of patients that undergo these procedures are dead within a year. And just in case you think five percent is a low number, consider this: in 2007 alone, more than 205,000 people had gastric bypass surgery. That means about 10,250 of those people will die sometime this year.

    But hey, at least the insurance companies will get to keep a higher percentage of those premiums, right?

    While insurers generally cover the costs of bariatric procedure, Shikora - the allegedly objective co-author of this study - claims that managed care companies put up "obstacles" to avoid paying for this pricey surgery. For example, many insurers require that candidates for bariatric surgery undergo a six-month, doctor-supervised weight loss program before approving the operation. All this despite the fact that the patients have already tried "every pill and every weight loss program out there," Shikora said.

    "Obstacles?" It'd call it common sense. Shouldn't major surgery always be a last resort? Everyone thinks so - except for the ones in the business of performing those major surgeries. People like Shikora would prefer that patients go right from the dining room table to his operating table.

    "Obesity is a disease, it's not just a choice or an eating affliction," Shikora said. "It is a genetic disease, and I don't feel that the morbidly obese patient should be treated any differently than a patient with breast cancer, HIV, or other ailments."

    Not only are Shikora's views nakedly biased, they're biased for the worst possible reason: money. He stands to profit immensely from the results of this so-called study, and his nauseating defense of the "results" of this utterly sickening study just underscores everything that's wrong with "sponsored" studies.

  2. Gastric bypass surgery: Dying to prevent cancer?

    Gastric bypass surgery: Dying to prevent cancer?

    This whole bariatric surgery kick is getting out of hand. People looking for a quick fix think that it'll be the easy out-and their surgeons are only too eager to put them under the knife. They promise them that the surgery will be the magic cure for everything from heart disease to diabetes. Now they're even claiming it'll reduce their risk of cancer. Give me a break.

    According to a new study done by researchers at McGill University in Canada, gastric bypass surgery can reduce the risk of cancer by as much as 85 percent. Which is great as long as the surgery doesn't kill you.

    That's right. The chilling statistic you never hear (except from me - I wrote about this in a Daily Dose a couple of years ago) is that as many as five percent of patients that undergo these procedures are dead within a year.

    Think that sounds like a small percentage? Consider this: In 2007 alone, more than 205,000 people had gastric bypass surgery. That means about 10,250 of those people will die sometime this year.

    The new study by the doctors at McGill compared 1,035 patients who had bariatric surgery between 1986 and 2002 with 5,746 obese patients who did not have the procedure. Over all, 2 percent of the gastric bypass patients were eventually diagnosed with cancer, while 8.5 percent of the non-surgery patients eventually developed cancer.

    Interesting? Yes. In fact, the breakdown of cancer reduction found by the study was fascinating: the gastric bypass patients were found to have an 85 percent lower incidence of breast cancer and a 70 percent lower diagnoses of colon and pancreatic cancers. What's more, there were 60 percent fewer incidences of skin cancers, a 15 percent drop in uterine cancers, and non-Hodgkins lymphomas dropped by half.

    But before you get too excited, consider that there are serious problems with the methodology of this research.

    Dr. Edward H. Phillips, a bariatric surgery specialist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said the results could be skewed because bariatric surgery candidates are screened for cancer before they can be eligible for the procedure. "It could be we are selecting people out of the population who don't have cancer," he said, also noting that the study only spanned five years, while cancers also take a long time to develop.

    I worry that these findings will spur even more people to undergo this barbaric procedure. I think that many of my colleagues can't see the forest through the trees. For the people who are getting this surgery, their morbid obesity is by far the biggest threat to their lives - cancer concerns are secondary to someone who tilts the scales at over 500 pounds. But the problem is that this surgery - once reserved for people with morbid obesity - is now being performed on people who are capable of losing weight on their own. And I mean people that are about 80 or so pounds overweight. And that's where it gets dangerous.

    After getting this surgery, patients are forced to eat so little that they can't possibly get all the nutrients they need. So instead of getting all the protein they need from a big, juicy steak, or folate from chicken liver, they have to load up on supplements to avoid malnutrition.

    The bottom line is that the danger to people who are obese is less about cancer and more about sugar. It's gluttony, and/or a lack of education on what you should and should not put in your mouth. Before subjecting themselves to risky surgeries with endless post- operative complications, they should try steering clear of the refrigerator. But you won't hear this from the members of the AABS there's too much money at stake.

  3. The one piece of my advice pregnant women should ignore

    According to a new study that's just been released, pregnant women who consume over 200 mg of caffeine per day have TWICE the risk of miscarriage than women who consume no caffeine at all.

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