St. Louis - Facing consumer complaints and investors' exit, lipotherapy chain Fig announced in late 2007 it probably would file for bankruptcy protection.
St. Louis, Mo. - Facing consumer complaints and exiting investors, lipotherapy chain Fig has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the Associated Press reports.
At press time, 338 former St. Louis-area Fig clients had complained of or officially reported problems such as pain, ineffective treatments and inability to get their money back, says Scott C. Thomas, a St. Louis Better Business Bureau trade practice consultant.
On Dec. 7, Fig closed all of its 18 locations nationally, except one independently owned clinic in Costa Mesa, Calif., according to a company statement. The statement blamed "economic conditions beyond (Fig's) control." However, media outlets have attributed the closure to investor pullout.
Fig did not respond to interview requests from Dermatology Times.
Fig's flameout stemmed from putting commerce ahead of patients, says Roman Chubaty, M.D. He says that in 2005, he traveled to St. Louis at the request of the company (then known as Advanced LipoDissolve and Wellness Center) and trained two physicians who became its medical directors.
Advanced LipoDissolve's business model included hiring a board-certified plastic surgeon in every state in which the company operated, he says. "But that person would hardly ever see the patient - the injections were always done by an R.N."
He says the company overtreated and overpromised.
"I don't believe the doctors had a lot of input into how the business was run," Dr. Chubaty says.
According to Mr. Thomas, complaints such as those of Corey VanDyke, a 27-year-old IT consultant treated at Advanced LipoDissolve for abdominal fat and love handles, are typical.
"It was supposed to be one of those things where you can go in on Friday and be back to work and working out on Monday," Mr. VanDyke tells Dermatology Times.
However, he says that after his first two visits, "I couldn't even do a sit-up for at least a week without feeling like somebody was stabbing me in my sides."
When he requested his money back, Mr. VanDyke adds, "They said, 'We can't do that because you have to finish your treatments first.'" Eventually a manager contacted him, but no manager ever showed up for appointments they made with him, he says.
"In the meantime," Mr. VanDyke says, "I owe $3,000 for services that not only didn't help, but caused stomach pain," including digestive issues that still persist.
The lesson regarding the procedure, he says, is that "It isn't worth the blood, sweat and tears. Do regular exercises."