A Naperville physician featured in a 2009 Tribune investigation
into alternative treatments for autism has been charged by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation with “unprofessional, unethical and/or dishonorable conduct.”
The complaint against Dr. Anjum Usman alleges that she made false or misleading statements regarding the value of treatments, “demonstrated extreme departure from rational medical judgment” and “abused the patient/physician relationship.” It asks that her medical license be revoked, suspended, placed on probation or otherwise disciplined.
The complaint, filed Wednesday, revolves around Usman’s care of a boy diagnosed with autism whose treatment was described in the Tribune’s series “Dubious Medicine.” The series detailed the many unproven therapies prescribed for the boy and found that many alternative treatments for autism amount to uncontrolled experimentation on children.
According to the complaint, the boy began seeing Usman shortly after he was diagnosed with mild to moderate autism in the spring of 2004. He was not yet 2.
Usman allegedly diagnosed the child with acalcium-to-zinc imbalance, yeast, dysbiosis, low zinc, heavy metal toxicity and abnormally high levels of aluminum, antimony, arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, nickel, silver, tin, titanium and selenium.
Treatments listed in the complaint include dietary restrictions; nearly three dozen vitamin, enzyme, mineral and other dietary supplements; two antifungal drugs; four chelators or detoxifying drugs; a hormone suppressor, and hyperbaric oxygen treatments, in which the child is shut inside a pressurized bag filled with extra oxygen.
“None of the treatments described above has been proven to influence the course of autism,” the complaint states. And yet Usman “made statements to (the boy’s) mother that the prescribed treatments had positive clinical benefits for children with autism, despite the lack of empirical research.”
At one point, the complaint alleges, Usman prescribed selenium supplements even though the boy’s levels were normal. She “continued to do so even when (the boy) eventually showed a high level,” according to the complaint.
In 2010, the boy’s father, James Coman, sued Usman and Dr. Daniel Rossignol of Melbourne, Fla., alleging that they harmed his son with “dangerous and unnecessary experimental treatments.” AChicago-area lab, Doctor’s Data, is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. That case, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, is ongoing.
Both Usman and Rossignol were prominent in the Defeat Autism Now! movement, which has promoted many of the risky and unproven therapies scrutinized by the Tribune in 2009. Both have spoken to parents and physicians at autism conferences, including a large one held in theChicago area each year called Autism One.
Coman’s attorney, David Wilzig, confirmed that Coman filed the complaint that launched the IDFPR investigation into Usman, and that the anonymous child referred to in the complaint is Coman’s son.
Neither Usman nor her attorney immediately responded to requests for comment.
Usman, medical director of the True Health Medical Center, is scheduled to appear before an administrative law judge for the Illinois State Medical Disciplinary Board on Nov. 28, at which point a hearing date will be set.