The FDA is About to Approve the Equivalent to an Obesity Shock Collar

In Depth

The miracle cure for obesity has been electricity all along — at least, so sayeth a new product just recommended for approval by the FDA’s nine-member Gastroenterology and Urology Devices Panel.

Alright, so it’s not exactly an obesity shock collar, but the principle is actually remarkably similar: the Maestro Rechargeable System is designed to curb someone’s appetite by electrically stimulating stomach nerves — basically, it’s a nerve-blocker that attempts to curb hunger pangs and make you feel full. It’s aimed at obese adults with a BMI over 40 (gee, I love that we’re still treating BMI like a legitimate measurement of fitness or obesity) as an alternative to weight-loss surgery.

Here are the technical details:

The Maestro consists of a “pulse generator” surgically implanted under the skin of the chest wall. This delivers high-frequency electrical pulses to leads laid along two trunks of the vagus nerve, which helps control the function of many organs in the abdomen.

This product may be perfectly safe (the advisory panel seems to think so), but I’d advise them to avoid putting “electrical pulses along the thing that helps control organ function” on the packaging, all the same.

Speaking of that, the vote wasn’t unanimous, although it was pretty lopsided: the panel voted 8 to 1 about whether the device was safe, and 6-2 (with one abstention) about whether its benefits outweighed its risks. Perhaps the most telling vote was whether it would actually work: the final results were 5-4 with the “no’s” having it. So it still might just not do anything — which, to be fair, would just give it something in common with about 95% of currently-on-the-market products designed to combat obesity.

Granted, none of this guarantees the product will be approved (the FDA is not obligated to follow the recommendations of its advisory committees), but since the agency most commonly does follow its advisory committees’ leads, it’s a safe bet that this will make it through soon.

Image via Byjeng/Shutterstock.

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