Consumer Health Digest #11-21

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
July 14, 2011

Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., with help from William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H. 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.

University of Exeter's "CAM" center will remain open. The University of Exeter's Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, which had been expected to close this year after the retirement of Professor Edzard Ernst, will remain open. Since the mid-1990s, Ernst and his colleagues have achieved widespread acclaim for their critical systematic reviews of "alternative" methods. Ernst suspects that the university stopped trying to raise funds for the Centre after receiving a formal complaint from Prince Charles's private secretary, Sir Michael Peat, who was also chairman of the Prince's Foundation for Integrated Health. [Henderson M. Royal row 'threatens alternative medicine research'. The Sunday Times, March 3, 2010] However, the new dean of Exeter's Peninsula Medical School has agreed to support the appointment of a successor to Ernst, who will remain part-time to oversee the appointment. The Centre's 163-page report, Complementary Medicine: The Evidence So Far—A Documentation of Our Clinically Relevant Research, 1993-2010, has been posted to Quackwatch.

FBI looking for weight-loss doctor. Gautam Gupta, M.D., who owns and operates the Nutrition Clinic (a chain of weight-loss clinics in Illinois), is now the object of an FBI manhunt. Dizkes C, Wang AL. FBI looking for weight-loss doctor charged with fraud. Chicago Tribune, June 17, 2011] Last month, Gupta was charged with one count each of mail fraud, health care fraud, and conspiracy, all of which are felony offenses. The complaint alleges that he or staff members under his direction submitted claims to Illinois Blue Cross/Blue Shield and the Illinois Medicaid program for procedures that were unnecessary (such as thyroid ultrasound scans) or never performed. From June 2001 through January 2010, the Nutrition Clinic received nearly $25 million for claims submitted on behalf of clinic patients, but the amount illegally obtained is unknown. Gupta is a white/male of Indian descent, 57 years of age, 5'5" tall, 160 pounds, with brown eyes and graying black hair that is sometimes worn in a ponytail. Anyone with information about his current whereabouts is asked to call the Chicago FBI at (312) 421-6700.


Gupta has been in trouble twice before. In 1999, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation suspended his controlled-substance licenses for one year because Gupta failed "to properly apprise female patients of the procedures required in heart and lung examinations" and was unaware "of inventory and record-keeping requirements regarding dispensing of controlled substances." In 2008, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accused Gupta of insider trading that resulted in a profit of $689,401 from buying and selling Georgia-Pacific securities. In 2009, Gupta consented to entry of a judgment under which he was ordered to pay back the profit plus interest of $188,096 and a civil penalty of $689,401.

More heads rolling in nurse-whistleblower case. Trouble continues to mount for the people who conspired to try to protect Rolando Arafiles, M.D. from being disciplined by the Texas Medical Board. In 2009, two longtime Winkler County Memorial Hospital nurses complained anonymously to the board that Arafiles had violated state regulations governing doctors. After the board contacted Arafiles about the complaint, he asked Sheriff Robert Roberts—a close friend, patient, and alleged business partner—to use official law-enforcement channels to obtain a copy of the confidential complaint, which he did. As a result, Arafiles and other officials were able to determine the identities of the nurses, which would have been protected from disclosure if the Roberts had not misused his position. The nurses were then fired by the hospital and indicted for misuse of official information. The charge against one of the nurses was dropped shortly before trial; the other was acquitted by the jury. Last month, Roberts was convicted of retaliation and abuse of official information and was sentenced to spend 100 days in jail, pay a $6,000 fine, and serve four years of probation. The conviction means he will automatically lose his job and must surrender his peace officer's license. Also last month, Arafiles was charged with aggravated perjury for lying at the nurse's trial. When asked how Roberts had obtained the names and contact information of patients who had complained about Arafiles to the Texas Medical Board, Arafiles said he didn't know even though he had given Roberts the information. Quackwatch has additional details.

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This page was posted on July 17, 2011.