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Big Money In Alternative Medicine Scams?
By Jaclyn Omalley
Big Money In Alternative Medicine Scams?
By Jaclyn Omalley
Sierra Integrative Medical Center in Reno Nevada is accused of bilking patients and rendering phony diagnosis. Little oversight from medical boards over complaints partially to blame?
United States of America (Press Release)
April 15, 2009
Women Claim They Got Bad Alternative Medicine
Posted by CrimeReporter at 4/15/2009 3:55 PM PDT on rgj.com
Reported by: Jaclyn Omalley http://firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.rgj.com
Crime report blog:
Two out-of-state women are awaiting a decision by state medical boards on complaints they filed in 2006 against a Reno physician alleging he was financially motivated when he wrongfully diagnosed them with Lyme disease and subjected them to painful and unnecessary treatments.
Sherri Higgins (left- middle), of Colorado, filed complaints to both the state’s boards of homeopathic and osteopathic medical examiners against Dr. Bruce K. Fong, contending he intentionally misdiagnosed her and her family with Lyme disease to ultimately gain their $80,000 bank account savings. She suspects a treatment where blood was withdrawn from her teen daughter, mixed with “ozone treatment” and then infused back into her body likely caused the girl to be exposed to dangerous viruses. Higgins said her 14-year-old daughter has the inactive viruses for both West Nile and hepatitis B, and is being cared for by infectious disease experts. Besides Fong’s treatment, she said the girl had never been exposed to needles or had blood transfusions.
Higgins said she wants Fong to lose his license, and go to jail. She said she is still very ill from his treatments.
"I just feel so angry and want to cry when I think of all he has taken from us," Higgins said, "and how hard I have had to fight to hold him accountable."
Leslie Styskal, of Nebraska, also filed a complaint against Fong to the homeopathic board in 2006, with similar allegations. Earlier this month, she filed complaints against Fong with the state's osteopathic and pharmacy boards.
Fong is licensed in Nevada as both an osteopathic and homeopathic doctor. By law, the boards are not allowed to comment on on-going complaints. When contacted, Fong said he was not legally allowed to comment on the patients’ treatments, but said “I feel I did nothing wrong.”
Both women said medical tests conducted by other doctors following their treatment with Fong and his staff at Sierra Integrative Medical Center concluded they were negative for Lyme disease. They said doctors told them they never had the illness described by Fong as a “silent epidemic.” Fong and his staff did not run medical tests before diagnosing them, they said.
“He said I needed the treatment or I would die,” Styskal said.
Both said Fong and his staff claimed Lyme disease was sexually transmitted, and passed through drinking out of the same cups. They said they were told this meant their husbands and children were also infected, prompting them to get their families treated, too. Lyme disease is an infection carried by ticks that infect humans and animals through bites. A rash usually accompanies it.
“When you are extremely ill and gone everywhere, you are desperate,” Styskal said. “They prey on you and tell you anything they want to take your money. When you don’t get well and run out of money and call them on it, then they don return your calls.”
Higgins said now she realizes Fong and his staff's assertion that Lyme disease is sexually transmitted is "ridiculous" but that at the time, she was so sick and desperate, she believed it. She said the doctor and his staff told her if she didn't do the treatments, she would die, as would her family.
When she was shown a slide of her blood and told the moving particles under the microscope were proof of the Lyme disease virus, she said she believed it.
"They gave me no choice," she said.
Treatment at Fong’s clinic was $1,500 a week, per person, and was not covered by insurance, the women said. Their treatments lasted around seven weeks, and were done in Reno.
The women also allege Fong let unlicensed staff treat and diagnose them. Both said they felt worse following the treatments. Higgins says doctors believe she is suffering from chronic mononucleosis. Styskal said her condition is still unknown.
Fong's mother, Katrina Tang, is listed on the state homeopathic medical examiner's Web site as being the only homeopathic doctor disciplined in Nevada. She has listed herself as the founder and director of research at Fong's clinic.
In 2002, the homeopathic board barred her from taking on new clients because she told a terminally ill patient she could cure them so she could profit off treatment, that her staff did not accurately report to patients when an oncologist would be available and that she allowed non-medical staff to attend to a critically ill patient.
Two years later she surrendered her homeopathic license as discipline agreed upon by the board. No public information was ever released on this action.
But ... in several letters of complaint against her filed by the state medical board - obtained by me - Tang and her staff were accused by patients of doling out universal diagnosis of Lyme disease, STDs and other allergy-related illnesses. She was also diagnosing these diseases with a machine called the Dermitron, which the FDA banned. It uses a metal probe that when waived near a body part, it causes a meter to react, which is supposed to signal what disease the person has ...
The patients also claimed Tang would never tell them what exactly was being pumped into them through daily IV treatments or shots. Tang was later sued as a co-defendant in a medical fraud case related to treatment a Florida woman received at her previous clinic before she died.
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