How dubious clinics get away with it

3 minute read

A public warning has been issued against a notorious weight-loss clinic but it’s “too little, too late”, critics say

After at least eight months of complaints against a notorious weight-loss clinic, the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission has finally issued a public warning, but it’s a case of “too little, too late”, critics say.

The commission strongly condemned the Medical Weightloss Institute (MWI) for its “extravagant” claims, prescription regimens with no basis in evidence, and for telling customers that talking to their GP was “fraught with danger”.

But the company went into liquidation a month before the warning, and many of its doctors and businesspeople had already moved on to other businesses.

“The whole system is pathetic. Regulation is supposed to protect people’s health and it has demonstrably failed here,” Adjunct Associate Professor Ken Harvey, a public-health expert and consumer advocate, said.

Complaints to regulators were met with “buck-passing, procrastination and excuses”, Professor Harvey said. “The result is that consumers continue to be ripped off and have their health put at risk from inappropriate investigations and prescribing.”

Not only have many patients not been refunded the money paid to the company, sometimes as much as $10,000, but promises of weight loss have not been realised and some have had harmful reactions.

“And we’ve had taxpayers ripped off with lots of unnecessary investigations to try to prove that these people had hormone deficiencies or imbalances, which, of course, didn’t exist in the first place,” Professor Harvey said.

The institute had promised tailor-made weight-loss regimens based on their customers’ blood tests.

“In practice; the organisation’s doctors wrote prescriptions for combinations of complementary and prescription medications without seeing or examining clients in person, and a compounding pharmacy mailed the medication without the required accompanying information to ensure safety and effectiveness,” the NSW HCCC statement said.

One of the patients treated by doctors at the institute was a 75-year-old man with renal impairment, but without diabetes. He was prescribed treatment that included metformin, as well as caffeine for “diabetes prevention, weight loss and metabolic syndrome”.

As a result of the treatment, the patient experienced insomnia, blurred vision and vomiting.

Another company which has been the subject of numerous consumer complaints, the Australian Male Hormone Clinic, has not had any public action taken against it by a regulator.

TMR has previously reported that this company used the same call-centre staff, doctors, and information on invoices as the MWI.

The hormone clinic spruiks an expensive, evidence-free treatment program that promises to help men “naturally” boost testosterone and fix erectile dysfunction.

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