Allergan and Johnson & Johnson sales reps are pumping up a large-scale push of the latest weight-loss procedure—gastric banding—while companies are using television commercials and Web sites to pitch it directly to consumers, according to a report this week in the Wall Street Journal.

Bariatric centers that perform the procedure having started running their own television ads as well, which face fewer restrictions than ads paid for by the manufacturers. In a spot that’s been running in Texas for a chain of surgery centers, a woman says, “I’m going to be around much longer for my family.”

Johnson & Johnson and Allergan sell devices used in the procedure. The main device, an adjustable band that loops around the stomach to reduce appetite, costs roughly $3,000; the surgery costs around $17,000.

Insurance coverage is spotty, though the companies are working on that, too. Allergan has 100 people in a department dedicated to insurance reimbursement related to the procedure.

Sales of Allergan’s Lap-Band and other obesity-reduction devices rose 50% last year to $270 million for the company, making these products the company’s fastest-growing line.

The band is less invasive than gastric bypass, the more traditional weight loss surgery that leaves the patient with a permanently smaller stomach. Both procedures carry the risks of any surgery, including infection and, in rare cases, death, says the report.

On the other hand, the lap band may be safer than the more invasive gastric bypass, and some data suggest it yields comparable, though slower, weight-loss results.

Source: Wall Street Journal Health Blog