Consumer Health Digest #16-17
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
May 8, 2016
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.
Gary Ordog pleads guilty to Medicare fraud. Gary Ordog, M.D., who for many years served as an expert witness and issued reports in support of people who claimed to have been injured by chemicals or mold, has pleaded guilty to health care fraud involving the submission of false claims to Medicare. In the plea agreement, Ordog admitted that he had (a) billed for treating Medicare beneficiaries on dates when he was out of the country, (b) billed for services to people who were dead on the dates he purportedly treated them, (c) billed for services totaling more than 24 hours in one day, and (d) fabricated patient records to support false claims. His sentencing is scheduled for August 18th, at which time he is likely to receive a five-year prison term. Ordog has a lengthy history of disciplinary action by the Medical Board of California. In 2005, the board accused him of (a) improperly diagnosing four patients with heavy metal toxicity and/or toxic encephalopathy (brain disease) and (b) falsely claiming to have certain credentials. (For example, he claimed to have co-authored a medical textbook when all he did was to help edit part of it.) The case was settled with a consent order in which he was placed on probation for 7 years, during which was not permitted to do medicolegal or forensics work. In 2013, after concluding that he had done more evaluations, the board extended his probation for 18 more months. In 2014, Bloomberg Businessweek reported that Ordog was one of at least eight doctors whose medical licenses had been suspended or revoked who collectively billed more than $7 million in 2014. [Tozzi J and others. Why Medicare keeps paying sketchy doctors. Bloomberg Businessweek, May 1, 2014]
Dubious mold clinic under investigation. Fox 5 Atlanta's investigative team has broadcast a 2-part series about Michael Pugliese, an unlicensed individual who operates the National Treatment Centers for Environmental Disease (NTCED) in Alpharetta, Georgia, where he purports to diagnose and treat mold-related disorders. [Travis R. 'Mold doctor' faces investigation, Company packaged nasal spray in laundry room. Fox 5 I-Team Atlanta reports, May 5, 2016] The reports indicated:
- The cost of a visit to NTCED was $3,300 up front. Urine mycotoxin testing added $699, and a special nasal spray and vitamins cost hundreds more.
- At least some of these products were packaged without the use of gloves or a mask in the laundry room of a building that Pugliese used.
- A former employee said that every one of the more than 500 mold tests he sold had a "positive" result (indicating a mold problem).
- One of Pugliese's entities, BioTrek Laboratories, was forced to stop processing test samples in 2015 after government inspections questioned their accuracy.
- The Georgia Composite Medical Board is investigating complaints from former employees and patients. One complaint came from a group of seven family members and friends who had received identical test results.
Urine mycotoxin testing is a problem that needs more regulatory attention. Several hundred doctors, many of whom portray themselves as "environmental medicine" specialists, have been using urine mycotoxin reports from another lab (RealTime) as the basis for diagnosing and treating patients. They are also being used in lawsuits and other proceedings by people who believe or fear that mold exposure had made them ill. However, scientific organizations have concluded that such tests are not trustworthy. [Barrett S. A skeptical view of RealTime Laboratories and its president, Dennis Hooper, M.D. Quackwatch, May 6, 2016]
Very few media outlets do high-quality investigative reporting about unscientific and pseudoscientific health matters. Readers who want to encourage more such reporting can do so by commenting on Randy Travis's Facebook page.
Parents convicted of killing child. A Canadian jury has convicted David and Collet Stephan of a criminal charge of "failing to provide the necessaries of life" to their 18-month son, Ezekiel, who died of bacterial meningitis while they treated him for 2½ weeks with hot peppers, garlic, onions, and horseradish and a product from a naturopath said to be aimed at boosting his immune system. [Alberta parents convicted in toddler's meningitis death. CBC News, April 26, 2016] The College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta has opened an investigation in response to a complaint signed by 43 physicians. [Naturopath in toddler's meningitis death trial to be investigated by industry body. CBC News, April 27, 2016]
This page was posted on May 8, 2016.