Consumer Health Digest #15-39

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
October 4, 2015

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.

Ophthalmologist falsified diagnoses to bilk Medicare. A federal jury has found David Ming Pon, M.D. guilty of defrauding Medicare by billing for unnecessary services. [Stutzman R. Orlando-area eye doctor convicted on 20 counts of Medicare fraud. Orlando Sentinel, Sept 29, 2015] The indictment stated that Pon had collected more than $7 million with the scheme. The evidence presented at trial indicated that Pon had fraudulently misdiagnosed more than 500 Medicare beneficiaries as suffering from wet macular degeneration, a disease that is treatable but can progress to blindness. He then used his false diagnoses to bill Medicare for unnecessary diagnostic testing and unwarranted laser treatments. In connection with the unnecessary testing, he injected his victims with dyes that posed potential serious health risks, including cardiac arrest. Several of the misdiagnosed patients testified about the emotional impact the false diagnosis had on their lives, including the fear of going blind as a result of the disease. Sentencing has been scheduled for March 14, 2016. Pon owned and operated Advanced Retina-Eye Institute, an ophthalmology practice located in Leesburg, Florida, with a satellite office in Orlando.

Tobinick/Novella Libel suit dismissed. The libel suit brought by Edward L. Tobinick, M.D. and the Institute of Neurologic Recovery (Tobinick's clinic) against Steven Novella, M.D., Yale University, SGU Productions, and the Society for Science Based Medicine (SFSBM) has been dismissed. Tobinick, who is board-certified in internal medicine and dermatology, has for many years offered to treat patients with Alzheimer's disease, post-stroke deficits, and various other neurological conditions with Enbrel, a drug that is FDA-approved for other purposes. He and other authors have published many papers supporting his off-label use of the drug, but his work remains controversial. The suit was triggered by a Science-Based Medicine Blog article in which Novella was skeptical of Tobinick's claims. The original complaint, filed in June 2014, accused the defendants of false advertising, unfair competition, libel, trade libel, and tortious interference with business relationships. The suit was dismissed with a series of orders:

The Science-Based Medicine Blog has published a more detailed summary of the case.

Aetna has published an excellent summary of the status of Enbrel research.

SBM Blog blasts chiropractic overclaims. Attorney Jann Bellamy has responded to four graphics that the American Chiropractic Association released in celebration of "National Chiropractic Health Month." The graphics suggest that chiropractic care is safer and more cost-effective than medical care for back and neck pain. However, the underlying data fail to support such assertions. [Bellamy J. October is National Chiropractic Health Month! Science-Based Medicine Blog, Oct 1, 2015]

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This page was posted on October 4, 2015.