Weight-Loss Ad Boasts Results, Hides Shameful Secrets

Ana Renteria saw a billboard advertising 1-800-Get-Thin. Ten days after her operation, she died. The saddest part? A little digging reveals lots of shady details about the place where Renteria had her surgery.

In Los Angeles, dialing 1-800-Get-Thin connects you to one of several various medical centers. Renteria had her procedure at Beverly Hills Surgery Center — formerly known as Almont Ambulatory Surgery Center — and Michael Hiltzik writes for the LA Times:

The people who have been behind this ad campaign and the clinic where Renteria and Brooks were operated on are brothers Julian and Michael Omidi. The California medical board revoked Julian's medical license last year, retroactive to 2007. The medical board placed Michael on three years' probation in 2008.

The Omidis have run their business under several names at various times, including TopSurgeons, Weight Loss Centers and Beverly Hills Surgery Center.

In addition, Hiltzik claims that the Beverly Hills Surgery Center has used some very suspicious billing practices and that the director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health has asked the FDA to investigate the ad campaign. The problem?

High-volume surgical centers like the one at which Renteria had her operation fall into a regulatory no man's land. The state Department of Public Health says that doctor-owned centers like Beverly Hills Surgery Center fall under the medical board's jurisdiction. But the medical board says it has oversight only over doctors, not facilities.

Meanwhile, people's lives are possibly at stake.

Scrutiny Of Lap-Band Enterprise Is Overdue [LA Times]