What is the magic ‘balloon pill‘ that people are traveling to Mexico to buy and splash $4,000 for it? It’s called Obalon and it supposedly helps people lose 20 to 30 pounds in a few months without surgery. Described as the biggest advancement in obesity treatment, Obalon is the world’s first gastric balloon that you can swallow. Here’s how it works: First, you swallow the pill, which is attached to a long, slim tube. Once the pill has made its way to your stomach, doctors use the tube to inflate the balloon with gas; the tube is then disconnected and pulled out. The balloon can stay in for up to three months, and two to three balloons may be used over the course of treatment.
At the end of treatment, after 12 weeks, an endoscopic procedure is performed to deflate and remove the balloon through your mouth. During the treatment patients can lose more than 50 percent of their excess weight.
Although the company is based in San Diego, hopeful patients must either go to Mexico or Europe to get it. The drug received Investigational Device Exemption from the Food and Drug Administration. Bariatric surgeon, Dr. Ariel Ortiz,director of the Obesity Control Center in Tijuana, Mexico, who helped develop the Obalon said he receives hundreds of requests for the drug each week.
“We use exactly the same equipment, exactly the same instruments, exactly the same standards that are used in the United States without the overhead costs of operating in the United States with all that red tape,” Ortiz said.
“What we are looking at is very similar weight loss to gastric surgery but instead of a year and a half we are obtaining results in three to four months,” he said. He also claims the “worst case scenario” is that the ” balloon deflates in the stomach, then it would pass through and into the toilet.”