Updegraff Vision LASIK Advertisements

LASIK advertising that downplays risks, side effects, and complications is irresponsible, in my opinion. Dr. Stephen Updegraff of Updegraff Vision does not disclose all of the known risks and problems of LASIK in his commercials.

Why do you suppose LASIK surgeons advertise more aggressively than all other doctors? I believe it’s because they are trying to sell a surgery that nobody really needs. They brainwash you with their ads into feeling as if you’ll never live up to your full potential as a human being until you free yourself of the burden of your glasses. They risk YOUR eyesight so they can swipe your credit card for several thousand dollars.

Dr. Stephen Updegraff’s LASIK commercial implies that it is cheaper to have LASIK than to continue wearing glasses or contact lenses.

Read: Does LASIK save money?

FDA Warns LASIK Providers Again: Stop Making False Claims

On 9/23/2011, the FDA issued a second Letter to Eye Care Professionals, giving LASIK providers a 90 day warning to remove any advertising or promotional materials that make false claims.

5/22/2009 – FDA issues first warning letter to LASIK surgeons, LASIK ads must warn consumers of risks.

From the letter: The FDA has received complaints that eye care professionals’ advertisements for LASIK procedures and FDA-approved lasers used for the LASIK procedures failed to inform consumers of the indications, limitations, and risks associated with LASIK procedures and the approved lasers used for the LASIK procedures. The FDA believes that eliminating deceptive or misleading health-related advertising claims is an important part of protecting the public health… These lasers are restricted medical devices that have been approved for particular uses and have risks associated with their use. Advertising and promotional materials for FDA-approved lasers used during LASIK procedures must be truthful, properly substantiated and not misleading…

Read letter

New York Post 5/23/2009

From the article: The FDA splits oversight of LASIK advertising with the Federal Trade Commission, which could not be immediately reached for comment. If the FDA deems LASIK advertising misleading, it can issue warning letters as well as take stronger action such as imposing fines or making referrals for criminal investigation… The American Academy of Ophthalmology physicians’ group said it appreciated the “reminder” from the FDA and would give the letter to its members. Other industry groups either could not be immediately reached or had no comment.

Link to article

Some leaders in the field of ophthalmology have spoken out against LASIK advertising:

Barry N. Wasserman, MD:
“There are large billboards advertising “bladeless” LASIK and radio ads that suggest that LASIK can be done without going under the knife. As doctors, we should all take pause. This is absolutely and grossly misleading to the public! Patients come in thinking they will have LASIK without cutting a flap. Except there is a flap and there are still associated flap risks. Again, I ask, should we be purposely misleading the general public? Should we trick them into coming into our offices?.”
EyeNet magazine, March 2008

H. Dunbar Hoskins Jr., MD, American Academy of Ophthalmology Executive Vice President:
“In medicine our role as professionals is to put the patient’s interest ahead of our own. Professional societies have had ethical standards that underscore the importance of that principle. Historically this went unquestioned. It was a medical need that caused the patient to seek out the physician… Now this principle is being tested as we see increasing efforts to attract or even entice patients into practices. This is a continuation of an activity that began with cataract surgery some 10 years or so ago. It is the nature of a competitive marketplace. It also sends a strong message to the consumer: ‘Let the buyer beware’.”
EyeNet Magazine, June 2000

Francis W. Price, MD:
“It’s a shame. I’ll lay it all on the government and the lawyers. They gave doctors the right to advertise”.
EyeWorld, March 2001

Douglas D. Koch, MD:
“Do we practice medicine in the spirit of Hippocrates, or do we sell used cars?”
J Cataract Refract Surg. August 2003

Steve Arshinoff, MD:
“I read the editorial on advertising in ophthalmology with great interest and wholehearted agreement. The seemingly progressive tendency to irresponsible advertising, particularly of laser in situ keratomileusis (LASIK), is becoming an embarrassment to all of us who wish to practice ethical medicine and do no harm to our patients.”
J Cataract Refract Surg. September 2004

From the FDA’s LASIK website:
“Be cautious about ‘slick’ advertising and/or deals that sound ‘too good to be true.’ Remember, they usually are.”

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces consumer protection laws prohibiting false and misleading ads of medical devices. The FTC released updated LASIK advertising guidelines in October, 2008. Dr. Stephen Updegraff, MD of Updegraff Vision should ensure that his ads are in compliance.

Report false or misleading LASIK advertising to the Federal Trade Commission.