Consumer Health Digest #06-19
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
May 9, 2006
Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., and cosponsored by NCAHF and Quackwatch. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.
"Toxic mold expert" curbed. The Medical Board of California has suspended the license Gary J. Ordog, M.D. of Newhall, California, for 90 days and placed him on seven years probation, during which time he is not permitted to engage in a medicolegal or forensics practice. In 2005, the board had accused him of gross negligence, inadequate record-keeping, dishonest or corrupt acts, and deceptive public communication. Among other things, he was accused of (a) improperly diagnosing four patients with heavy metal toxicity and/or toxic encephalopathy (brain disease) and (b) falsely claming to have certain credentials. In addition to seeing patients. (For example, he claimed to have co-authored a medical textbook when all he did was to help edit part of it.) Ordog has served as an expert witness and issued many reports in support of people who claimed to have been injured by chemicals or mold. Forbes magazine has reported that "for $9,800 up front (plus $975 an hour) Dr. Ordog appeared as an expert witness in lawsuits to testify that mold can cause a terrifying array of diseases, from lung cancer to cirrhosis of the liver." [Fisher D. Dr. Mold: The science may be sketchy, but medical "experts" like Gary Ordog keep litigation alive and kicking. Forbes Magazine, April 11, 2005 (Registration on the Forbes site, which is free, is needed to access this article.)] However, the Administrative Law Judge's report suggests that many of his Ordog's reports have been bogus. Ordog is also embroiled a civil suit by a law firm that used him as an expert but later concluded that he had overstated his credentials and billed for services he did not perform. The case has a July 31st trial date. Quackwatch has a comprehensive article about the "toxic mold" controversy.
Oncologist receives long prison sentence for short-changing patients. Cancer specialist Young Moon, M.D. who practiced in Crossville, Tennessee, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for billing Medicare and insurance companies for substantially more chemotherapy and side-effect medications than she actually gave to patients and for lying to a federal agent about what she had done. Evidence at her trial showed that billings from 1999 through early 2002 resulted in payment of more than half a million dollars to which she was not entitled. Using substandard dose also deprived patients of potentially life-saving or life-prolonging treatment. [Oncologist Young Moon convicted of health care fraud. USDOJ press release, Dec 12, 2005]
Utah BBB warns against Ultralife Fitness. The Better Business Bureau of Utah has issued a nationwide warning to consumers about Ultralife Fitness, which sells diet products via its Web sites www.trugenixhoodia.com and www.trugenixfitness.com. During the past year, the BBB has received 538 complaints on this company and given it an unsatisfactory rating. The sites offered a bottle of diet pills "free" (with a small shipping charge), but when additional bottles were sent, customers were surprised to learn that they had signed up for recurring charges of up to $99.90. The charge was mentioned beneath an inconspicuous "Click Here to Complete Your Order" button that many buyers overlooked. The company has responded to most complaints (although many remain unanswered or unresolved) by stating:
[Customers] should have read the terms and conditions that states they have 30 days to try out the product and if they do not cancel with in the 30 days they would be auto-shipped an additional bottle and charged for the bottle. In there it also tells them they are receiving a free 30 day membership to our fitness program and if they want to cancel to go online and cancel or call our toll free number that is on the bottle or website. It also states that once the bottle has been shipped, no refund would be given.
In a prepared statement, BBB president Jane Driggs said:
This company preyed on individuals who did not read the small print. While it is true that it is the customer's responsibility to read all information, the company should make this information conspicuous. It is obvious that customers are not aware they are agreeing to more charges. [Free diet pills come with a catch. Utah BBB alert, May 2, 2006]
Undercover investigators expose chiropractic insurance fraud. Encino, California chiropractor Nasrin “Nancy” Hadizadeh Fathi, D.C., and legal assistant Behrouz Beck Saffary have pled no contest and been found guilty of one count of insurance fraud. Both have been sentenced to three years probation, ordered to perform 200 hours of community service, and ordered to pay $9,416 restitution. In 2004, after a consumer complained, the California Department of Insurance's Fraud Division initiated an undercover investigation into Valley Spine Institute, the clinic Fathi operated. Investigators who posed as traffic collision victims were asked to sign forms for representation by the law offices of Karineh Avanessian. Although Fathi treated them no more than three times each, the investigators were asked to sign multiple "sign-in" sheets to give the impression of more extensive treatment. Insurance companies later received bills from Fathi and settlement demands from Saffary (representing the Avanessian law firm). One company received a demand for $18,770 for two undercover investigators’ “injuries” and a total of 58 physical therapy visits. Another company was asked for $13,310 for one investigator’s “injuries” and 27 physical therapy visits. [Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi Announces No Contest Plea for Encino Chiropractor and Legal Assistant for Insurance Fraud - Must Perform 200 Hours of Community Service. California Department of Insurance press release, May 3, 2006]
Unlicensed psychologist charged with insurance fraud. Tama Judd, of Mashpee, Massachusetts, has been indicted on charges that she practiced for more than 10 years as an unlicensed mental health counselor. The indictment charges her with one count each of practicing mental health counseling without a license and practicing psychology without a license and five counts each of filing false health care claims and larceny over $250. Massachusetts state law requires that psychologists possess a doctoral degree in psychology from a doctoral program recognized by the state and that they be licensed with the state Division of Professional Licensure. During her 10-year practice, she met with patients, many of whom allegedly suffered from multiple personality disorders, phobias, and dissociative disorders. The indictments allege that Judd had falsely represented herself as possessing a doctorate degree and/or license to practice psychology or mental health counseling and that insurance companies paid claims for more than $230,000. [Mashpee woman indicted on charges she practiced as unlicensed mental health counselor. Massachusetts Attorney General news release, May 2, 2006]
This page was posted on May 9, 2006.