By Jaclyn O'Malley
When veteran Reno cancer doctor James W. Forsythe was indicted last month on allegations he handed out smuggled, unapproved human growth hormones, a state medical board investigator called him "one of the five most serious physician offenders known in the state of Nevada."
Loyal patients say Forsythe, a certified oncologist and homeopathic doctor, is wonderful and his alternative treatments saved their lives. They are shocked by the allegations and believe he is the victim of a political witch hunt.
Other patients contacted by the Reno Gazette-Journal accuse his clinic of falsely diagnosing them with illnesses and charging them for costly, unnecessary treatments that didn't improve their health.
A Reno federal grand jury indicted Forsythe, 68, on allegations that he provided unapproved human growth hormones, smuggled from Israel, to at least one patient — an undercover agent — who wanted to look and feel younger. Court affidavits say Forsythe told the agent that the hormones would reverse the effects of aging, restore his sleep quality, improve weight control and enhance libido.
Forsythe denies the allegations, saying after his indictment, "I am confident we will prevail."
While never before criminally charged, Forsythe or his clinic have been the subject of several regulatory investigations over the years. And controversy surrounds a practice that combines standard medical approaches to cancer with the alternative techniques of homeopathy.
Robert Rozen, 68, of Lauderhill, Fla., claims expensive and ineffective treatments his cancer-stricken wife Elisa received at The Century Clinic in Reno contributed to her cancer-related death in July 2000 at 63. Forsythe was the owner and medical director of that clinic beginning in 1994, later changing its name to Century Wellness Clinic and switching locations.
Rozen filed a civil medical fraud suit in 2001 in Washoe County that is ongoing against Forsythe and Katrina Tang, one of the primary homeopathic doctors at the former Century Clinic. In 2004 Tang surrendered her license and retired.
In 2002 the Nevada State Board of Homeopathic Medical Examiners disciplined Tang by barring her from taking any new clients, according to a public settlement. The board concluded that there were violations: Tang told a terminally ill patient she could cure them so she could profit off treatment, her staff did not accurately report to patients when an oncologist would be available and she allowed nonmedical staff to attend to a critically ill patient. The board does not make public specific information about investigations or identify the patients involved.
Rozen said Tang insisted his wife didn't have cancer, but rather Lyme Disease. In a 2005 deposition, Tang denied ever making that diagnosis.
Forsythe had diagnosed Elisa Rozen with stage IV non-Hodgkins lymphoma, according to a deposition he took last year. And, according to Tang's own notes in medical paperwork, she too agreed Elisa Rozen had cancer.
"They ran a scam where they preyed on the sick and infirm," Rozen said.
Forsythe has declined to comment, and his attorney did not return phone calls. The whereabouts of Tang, who separated her practice from Forsythe in 2003, was unknown. Phone calls to her family members, most themselves doctors, and her attorney went unreturned. Tang, in the deposition, said more than 90 percent of patients were from out of state, many finding the clinic through airline magazine advertisements, doctor referrals and the Internet.
Rozen was one of 19 people from across the country who wrote letters in 2001 to the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners demanding Tang and Forsythe be investigated for their practices. The letters, obtained by the Reno Gazette-Journal, accuse Tang of falsely diagnosing cancer and then saying cancer patients really had Lyme Disease; claiming she could cure terminal illnesses and giving patients painful medical treatments, including one purported to change the patient's DNA. Some said when their finances dried up, they were kicked out of the clinic. Others demanded refunds and said the treatments didn't work.
"I certainly feel that Dr. Tang and Dr. Forsythe and others should be barred from the practice of medicine," wrote Betty Driver McCaa, a Virginia woman who was treated at the clinic for multiple sclerosis. "They prey on people who are desperate, taking their money and keeping them from conventional treatments that might help them."
Sherrie Gershon, of Florida, said in a recent interview that her son, Michael, was a clinic patient for eight years and began suffering grand mal seizures before Tang said he had fatal brain cancer and told him to find another doctor. Another doctor immediately tested for the fatal brain cancer and discovered he did not have it, Gerson said.
Gershon was a patient who also worked at the clinic in exchange for treatment because her money ran out. Combined, she and her son were charged about $200,000 in medical bills that were not covered by insurance, she said. She said the treatments did not help.
"As a mother, I was desperate and we had exhausted all conventional medicines," she said. "They kept saying they were the only ones who could help him. I clung to their promise that my son, my only son, would get better."
Her son died at 14 in an ATV accident she witnessed on Thanksgiving Day 1999.
"From what I knew about Dr. Forsythe, he was very kind and understanding, a good doctor," Gershon said. "But for the things that happened when he was the director and the fact he allowed it to happen, he should pay for that."
Gershon said she supplied testimonials for patients and advertisements about the good care she and her son received but later wished she hadn't.
In her 2001 letter to the medical board of examiners, she said Forsythe is guilty of the "unethical, cruel, and illegal things being done at the clinic because he allows it to go on daily."
Oversaw clinic's practice
Rozen and his attorney, Ann Hall, accuse Forsythe of overseeing Tang's medical practice and agreeing with her treatment of Elisa Rozen. They said that Forsythe had to sign off on all medical paperwork and had to be aware of the testing and treatments. Also, Rosen said Forsythe was present during some conversations with Tang when Rozen said Tang adamantly opposed chemotherapy and demanded his wife be treated instead for Lyme Disease with her homeopathic treatments.
According to a deposition, Forsythe said his role in the Century Clinic as medical director was primarily to treat cancer patients, hospitalize them and refer them for more advanced treatment.
"And basically make sure that, you know, the patients were getting good care at the clinic and the standard of care was up to community standards," Forsythe said in the deposition.
In that deposition, Forsythe also accused the Rozens of not wanting to pursue the conventional medical treatments he recommended and said they didn't follow treatment schedules. He said he could not recall ever hearing Tang tell them Elisa Rozen didn't have cancer.
Dr. Wallace Sampson, a retired oncologist in Los Altos, Calif., who has spent much of his career investigating fraudulent health care and alternative medicines, is a national expert being used in Rozen's case. Sampson said the case seems to be a break in the patient-doctor contract.
"The patient goes in with the expectation their physician can cure or effectively treat them," Sampson said. "And the doctor can really believe treatment is going to work and say he can cure someone."
Or, he said ,they can take a "psychopathic approach" and knowingly give someone a useless treatment and justify it because other medical treatments didn't work, either.
Sampson said the physician has the obligation to tell the patient the chances of recovery and the benefit, if any, of the treatments.
"Elisa Rozen had lymphoma," he said. "What on Earth reason would there be to run tests for viruses other than to mislead the patient or enter into a doctor's own fantasy world?"
Rozen's lawsuit accuses Forsythe and Tang of proximately causing his wife's death, or causing the loss of a chance for her survival. He wants a jury civil trial to determine whether the doctors are guilty of fraud, medical negligence and operating a criminal enterprise.
When Elisa Rozen sought treatment at the Reno clinic, her cancer was isolated to her armpit. Six months later, it spread to her other armpit, neck, abdomen and pelvis, Rozen said of his wife who then weighed less than 100 pounds.
Elisa Rozen was first diagnosed in June 1998 with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, cancer of the lymphatic system. She sought treatment at the Century Clinic between February and July 1999 on another doctor's referral.
Rozen had called Forsythe to inquire about the treatment. He wanted to know whether they had certain chemotherapy treatments.
"Dr. Forsythe said it was premature to consider chemotherapy because he wanted to find the cause of Elisa's illness and treat it," he said. "Those representations excited us, and we came to Reno."
When they arrived in Reno, they first met with Tang, who told her she didn't have cancer, rather a virus that mimicked cancer symptoms, Rozen said. Tang would not look at medical records they brought, he said.
"The second or third day, she was holding a bunch of lab tests in her hands and said, 'you don't have cancer,'" Rozen said. "You can't imagine the feeling because we had been in emergency mode for months ... both of us starting crying we were so ecstatic and weak in the knees."
But Rozen was confused. How come the other doctors said she had cancer?
"Tang held up lab tests and said the symptoms are caused by viruses and bacteria. She said Elisa had Lyme disease," he said. "She said our doctors were not stupid or incompetent but they didn't think to look where they look and they did different tests than they did to find things they are not aware of."
But Hall said that on medical paperwork signed by Forsythe, it says Elisa Rozen has non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
At least three times during meetings with the couple and Tang, Forsythe recommended Elisa Rozen have chemotherapy, but Tang refused and said it would sabotage her homeopathic treatments, Rozen said.
Sampson said it is possible that an oncologist could recommend chemotherapy while a homeopath says it would interfere with their treatments.
Patients could ask for homeopathic treatment first and follow it with chemotherapy, he said. The cancer doctor could then agree to it because the patient makes the decision.
"People went to the clinic relieved because Forsythe served as a stamp of legitimacy," Hall said. "They had an oncologist on board, and that lent to its legitimacy."
When Elisa Rozen became deathly ill on numerous occasions, her husband said Tang told them it was a good sign. She said it proved the body was fighting the virus.
"Elisa would look at me and say don't worry, I'll be better in the morning," Rozen said. "They told her each time she relapsed that it was the viruses leaving her body."
Rozen says Tang once told the couple they were exposed to atomic toxins on a plane ride home and used a machine called a Dermatron to detect electrical imbalances. She used the machine to prove to the couple they had been exposed, Rozen said.
In the 1990s, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration twice raided Century Clinic and in 1993 banned Tang from using the Dermatron. In 1998 a judge ordered Tang and the clinic to pay a $400,000 fine for using similar illegal machines in an experimental study, according to FDA records. In 2002, the state homeopathic medical examiners board settled with Tang and ordered she not accept new patients. The board, in a public settlement agreement, said it still had 18 complaints against Tang that had not been investigated.
"There is no question her cancer progressed because she wasn't being treated for it," Rozen said.
The Food and Drug Administration vs. Dr. James W. Forsythe:
Last month, Dr. James W. Forsythe pleaded not guilty to a federal grand jury indictment accusing him of introducing a non-FDA approved human growth hormone, Bio-Tropin, from Israel into Nevada and then, with help from staff at his clinic, Century Wellness Center, distributing the hormone to patients for anti-aging purposes.
The FDA accused of him of twice giving an undercover agent a vial of Bio-Tropin in 2004 because the agent said he wanted to feel younger, and then falsely diagnosed the agent with illnesses without running tests to justify charging his insurance company with an expensive laboratory test.
Forsythe attorney, Richard Wright, said his client will ultimately be vindicated.
"The allegations against him are nonsense," the Las Vegas lawyer said. "I guess what baffles me is the selective attempted use of criminal sanctions for what normally and customarily is a civil dispute with the FDA.
"Thousands of physicians engage in the same practice of medically approved treatments and they are not criminally prosecuted," he said.
Forsythe's trial in Reno federal court is scheduled for 9 a.m., Dec. 5.
In February 2005, agents searched Forsythe's home and office. Besides the illegal human growth hormone, they were looking for evidence of smuggling, health care fraud and money laundering, an affidavit said. A Carson City pharmacy connected to the case was also searched.
The FDA has approved only certain human growth hormones and has limited their use for treatment. Human growth hormones have been used in the past for children with stunted growth, but in recent years has been marketed for anti-aging, weight loss and increased athletic performance. The use of the hormone caused a scandal in professional sports.
Some cancer prevention organizations say that the use of the hormone contributes to certain kinds of cancers. Dr. Stephen Barrett, of Quackwatch, Inc., a non-profit that battles health-related fraud, calls the use of hgh for anti-aging purposes a scam.
The FDA also accused, but did not charge, Forsythe with distributing an IV treatment called Poly-MVA that the FDA has not approved for cancer treatment. According to Internet and brochure advertisements Forsythe has done on the treatment, he says Poly-MVA is a food supplement that brings "death" to cancer cells and warns it is not FDA approved. He is involved in a clinical study of the treatment that is sponored by AMARC Enterprises in Spring Valley, Calif., which the FDA is investigating, according to court records. AMARC Enterprises states on its Web site that the treatment's formula is vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
The recent FDA investigation also found that Forsythe gives his patients an IV treatment called "hydrogen peroxide therapy." Authorities say this treatment is not approved for cancer either. Also, an affidavit says that agents found many drugs in Forsythe's office they say were smuggled from Mexico that were misbranded and consisted of amygdalin, a substance found naturally in the pits of apricots and other fruits. It is the active ingredient of an unapproved cancer medication.
Agents also said they found empty vials of Bio-Tropin in garbage cans outside Forsythe's home.
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Who is Dr. James W. Forsythe?
He is 68, owner and operator of Century Wellness Center and also owns the Cancer Screening and Treatment Center, where he is the medical director. Both are in Reno. Forsythe is the author of a natural healing book and has a weekly radio show. Forsythe is an oncologist, internal medical doctor and licensed homeopath. He's practiced in Northern Nevada for about 30 years. He has been disciplined by the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners once, related to excessive patient billing.
According to his Web site, Forsythe is a Vietnam veteran, retired colonel and former state surgeon in the Nevada Army Guard. He also was an associate professor of medicine at the University of Nevada, Reno. About 25 years ago he participated in a Churchill County cancer study after noticing a high occurrence of cancer in Fallon residents. Later, the study would be connected to the Fallon leukemia cluster.
Forsythe, a father of five, has been married to Earlene for 26 years. Both have strong Republican ties and were once delegates to the National Republican Convention. His wife, the former Nevada GOP chair, is a partner at Century Wellness Clinic and is a registered nurse. She said she narrowly lost her bid for Assemblywoman in 2002 because her competition's campaign included chides of quackery related to her husband's discipline in 1995 by the state Board of Medical Examiners.
Recently unsealed court documents say the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners has been investigating Forsythe since 1995, and although they have found wrong-doing, he says he acted as a homeopath and is exempt from any board discipline.
In 1995 Forsythe pleaded guilty to one count of making unreasonable charges for tests and services. He paid a $1,000 fine and was required to pay back $44,000.
According to court records, there have been 20 investigations against him "fairly evenly spaced over the past 15 years." The board said there were six investigations opened against him in 1996, and from 1997 to 2004 there were 12. None resulted in discipline and most are closed.
Board investigator Pamela Castagnola said in a court affidavit that given the nature and context of the complaints of improper billings and poor patient care, combined with her opinions developed during the investigations, that Forsythe represents "one of the five most serious physician offenders known in the state of Nevada."
Investigative details about doctors are normally kept confidential and not released to the public until the Board of Medical Examiners makes formal charges.
The above information was obtained from an affidavit citing the FDA's investigation into Forsythe.
Some call him hero; others have harsher words for Dr. Forsythe
Maverick doctor under fire
Editor's Note: Dr. James W. Forsythe's attorney said the doctor is prohibited under federal patient privacy laws from discussing patients and their care and would not comment on what they said of his treatment of them.
• Jaime Clanton, 25, diagnosed with a form of brain cancer.
Doctors in San Francisco wanted her to take extreme medications and she wanted a second opinion. An employee at a health food store in the region recommended Dr. James Forsythe.
"He did research on my cancer and he said he was going to get me better," said Clanton, of Reno.
After a treatment of chemotherapy, vitamins and juices, she said she feels great. Medicare pays her doctor bills.
"He saved my life. He is my hero," Clanton said. "I think he's a god. He's really such a great doctor. He doesn't take lives, he saves them."
• Charles Hunter, 67, diagnosed with a cancer of the plasma cells that causes erosion of the bones.
Hunter came to Reno from Fresno, when he moved in with a relative. He said Forsythe's billings seemed excessive. He said he wasn't being told what medicine he was being given and that Forsythe would call him with news that his cancer had changed and he needed to come in for treatment, but then wouldn't return his phone calls.
A patient since March 2005, he said he is looking for a new doctor. He said Forsythe charges Medicare $2,000 for each visit where he got infusions of unknown medicines that never made him feel better.
"To me, it always seemed like money was the most important thing to him," he said. "It was just his statements and the way he talked to me and conducted himself as a doctor to a patient ...a lot of times I felt he didn't care about me as a patient and was more interested in making money."
• Linda Wells, 20, from Albany, NY, was diagnosed with cancer in the lining that surrounds the stomach.
Wells raised about $20,000 so she could be treated by Forsythe for three weeks. She returned home in late March and said she plans to go back. Wells also had surgery by a specialist in Baltimore after her visit to Reno. Wells' treatment, she said, was Poly-MVA, which the Food and Drug Administration says is not regulated for cancer treatment. It is a solution of water, specific minerals, vitamins and amino acids.
"Everything was wonderful," she said. "I went there very sick, nauseous and in pain and after the first few treatments I felt amazing and great ever since."
Wells' mother, Annie, said the difference in her daughter was well worth the trip.
"When she came home it was like she was a different person," she said. "It didn't get rid of the cancer, but it made her feel 100 percent better."
• John Daliposon, 75, says he was misdiagnosed by Forsythe as having prostate cancer.
For more than two years, Daliposon believed he had cancer. However a Reno doctor examined him last year and tested for cancer, concluding that he was cancer-free. At that time, Forsythe had told him his cancer was growing aggressively and without surgery, he would die, Daliposon said.
Daliposon and his wife, Barbara, 70, both of Reno, were Dr. Forsythe's patients for 20 years. Daliposon said Forsythe diagnosed him in August 2002 without taking a biopsy.
"He said don't worry, he'll take care of it and knows how to fix it," Daliposon said. "I believed him totally."
Between September 2002 and March 2005, Forsythe gave him four injections of prostate cancer medication at more than $1,300 apiece. He billed them to Medicare, Daliposon said.
After learning he was free of cancer, Daliposon changed doctors.
• Louise Broody, 80, was diagnosed with colon and breast cancer.
Broody has been a patient of Dr. Forsythe for 24 years. He also treated her common-law husband, Raymond, who died of Alzheimer's disease. She said she does not believe the allegations against her doctor brought by the Food and Drug Administration or those in the pending medical fraud suit against him related to a patient's death in 2000.
"My heart is broken," the Reno woman said. "He is like a family member, a very decent man. We all just adore him.
"He has taken care of me as my primary doctor from the very beginning and never at any time did he give me anything other than (pain killers)," she said. "I don't believe these things I'm hearing about him."
Broody said she was told many of his patients are rallying in support of him.
• Anaris,58, and James Frazier, 68, of Portola, Calif.
The couple have been patients of Dr. Forsythe's for the past two years. James Frazier, diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer wanted alternative treatment while his wife needed treatment for what doctors told her was a heart condition. Anaris Frazier said Forsythe ran tests and discovered she had no heart condition, but had problems with her gallbladder. Her husband said Forsythe treated him with Poly-MVA, which the FDA has not approved for cancer treatment.
"It was so simple," James Frazier said of how Forsythe was able to cause his cancer to go into remission through the intravenous treatments and dietary changes. "Conventional doctors didn't believe in any other treatment than chemotherapy and radiation."
His wife said Forsythe is different than other conventional doctors because he takes the time to listen.
"A spirit led us to the man," Anaris Frazier said. "Things happen for a reason and now I'm standing her in better health than I have been in years."
The couple says they don't believe the recent charges against Forsythe and say the government is out to get him because it doesn't like alternative medicine.
"If it turns out he did what they say ... I doubt it, but I am thinking positively because we love this man," Anaris Frazier said. "If he did do it, he did it with a good heart and intended to help."
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Choosing between the medicines is personal, ethicist says
Craig Klugman, Ph.D., is a medical ethicist at the School of Public Health at the University of Nevada, Reno. He shares his thoughts with the Reno Gazette- Journal on the issues of conventional and homeopathic medicine.
• Q: How do patients choose between a medical doctor and a homeopathic doctor?
A: In Europe, you can be trained in both areas, and doctors ask patients which method do you want to be treated. Here in the United States we only give scientific credence to allopathy. It's a personal decision which to choose if you are competent to make your own decision.
• Q: Is it ethical for a cancer doctor who is also a homeopath to allow cancer patients to forego chemotherapy in favor of homeopathic medicines?
A: The issue here is twofold. One is what we call medical nonmaleficence, which means to do no harm. The doctor is obligated not to harm a patient, or make anything worse with treatment, intending to make their condition worse. When you give cancer treatment, it can make a patient worse, but the intent was to get them better. So one question is, was he really practicing "do no harm?' And the second question is how much were the patients informed about risks and benefits?
• Q: Should patients try homeopathic medicines instead of conventional medicine?
A: People have always bought snake oil and family remedies because they feel they are helpful. As long as they are not harmful ...in the land of freedom and liberty, you have the right to make choices. But you need to be given all the risks and benefits that a reasonable person needs to know to make a choice.
• Q: Are desperate, terminally ill patients always able to rationally make decisions?
A: Competency is a legal definition, but do patients have the capacity at that moment in a desperate search for hope to make a truly informed decision? They may have, and they may say it was worth it to try. When you're at that point, you will try anything. Face it, modern medicine doesn't cure everything.
• Q: So how do you get the right treatment?
A: The person who decides treatment is the patient. That's why we encourage patients to be active and not passive. Go for second opinions. Ultimately it's your choice.
— Jaclyn O'Malley
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A LOOK AT HOMEOPATHY
• What is homeopathy?
Homeopathy is a form of alternative medicine pioneered by Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician who lived from 1755 to 1843. The term comes from the Greek words "homois," which means "similar," and "pathos" or suffering.
Homeopathy was brought to the United States from Europe in 1825, according to the National Center for Homeopathy in Alexandria, Va. It peaked in the United States at the turn of the 20th century with 22 homeopathic medical colleges and 1 in 5 doctors using it, according to the national center. But advances in conventional medicine led to a decline in homeopathy's practice. By the late 1940s, there were no homeopathy schools left in the country. The '90s saw a resurgence in alternative medicine with homeopathy being one of the therapies that saw the most increase, according to the Center for Alternative Medicine Research and Education of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
• What is its basis?
The key principle behind homeopathy is that "like treats like" — also known as Hahnemann's "Principle of Similars." Under this principle, using diluted substances that cause certain symptoms in a healthy individual should be able to treat those same symptoms in an ailing individual. One example cited by the National Center for Homeopathy is "syrup of ipecac" from the Ipecacuanha plant. The substance causes severe coughing that leads to gagging and vomiting in healthy individuals. It also causes incessant nausea that is not relieved by the vomiting. Based on the law of similars, this substance should allay the symptoms of a person suffering from a gagging cough after a cold, or a woman experiencing morning sickness with incessant nausea that is not relieved by vomiting. Classical homeopathy used to only allow for addressing one condition at a time but many homeopathic doctors today use computers to allow them to prescribe several substances for different conditions at the same time.
• How are homeopathic medicines made?
Homeopathic dilutions typically start with a 1:100 ratio: One part of the active substance is mixed with 99 parts alcohol and shaken vigorously in a process called "succussion." This initial mix is labeled a "1C" dilution. By taking one part of the 1C dilution and mixing it with 99 parts alcohol again, you come up with a "2C" dilution. Reaching a "3C" dilution means a ratio of one part per million. Small globules from sugar are then mixed with the solution to create the homeopathic medicine. The principle behind homeopathic dilutions is a source of controversy, with practitioners of conventional medicine contending that the dilution of the active agent is so extreme that the resulting mix is nothing more than a placebo.
oWhat are the requirements to become a homeopathic doctor?
There is no standard training or national certification for homeotherapy, with requirements varying from state to state, according to a spokesman from the National Center for Homeopathy. Nevada and Arizona are the only states that separately license homeopathic doctors or HMDs. HMDs are regulated under Nevada Revised Statutes 630A which states that a license may be issued to any person who:
• is a U.S. citizen or legally allowed to work in the country.
• has a degree of doctor of medicine (M.D.) or doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.).
• is licensed to practice allopathic (i.e. conventional) medicine or osteopathic medicine in any state or country, the District of Columbia or a territory or possession of the United States.
• has completed a year of postgraduate training in allopathic or osteopathic medicine approved by the Nevada State Board of Homeopathic Medical Examiners.
• has passed all oral and written examinations by the boardalong with other additional requirements.
• What can HMDs do in Nevada?
Besides classical homeopathy, the practice of HMDs in Nevada has been broadened to include other alternative therapies. Treatments mentioned in NRS 630A include herbal therapy, neural therapy, neuromuscular integration, thought field therapy, dry needling and chelation. "Pharmaceutical preparations" allowed for HMDs also include certain controlled substances such as narcotics and opiates.
• What agency oversees Nevada HMDs?
To check the record of a Nevada HMD or to file a complaint, contact the Nevada State Board of Homeopathic Medical Examiners. The local office is at 435 Court St., in Reno. The office, however, is not routinely staffed for walk-in traffic or personally answered calls. You can leave a message by calling 324-3353 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Jason Hidalgo
Publication: Reno Gazette-Journal
By Jaclyn O'Malley
A national health insurance company has cancelled the preferred provider status of cancer doctor James W. Forsythe due to a recent federal indictment charging him with distributing illegal human growth hormone for anti-aging purposes, his clinic's spokeswoman said.
Lisa Marie Wark of Century Wellness Center said Tuesday that Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield likely will not be the only insurer to drop Forsythe following what she said were recent "outrageous" allegations.
"Dr. Forsythe feels that this is how the FDA and conventional medical doctors take down alternative health care providers," Wark said Tuesday of the cancellation. "This magnifies the injustice of reckless prosecution on the part of an unaccountable and overzealous government agency."
Forsythe has sent a letter to his patients explaining that as of Oct. 3 he was no longer considered a preferred provider for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Wark said about 25 percent of his clinic's patients will be affected and will need to receive chemotherapy from another doctor.
She said Forsythe will be reinstated if he is exonerated from the charges. He has never been dropped by an insurance company before, she said, nor has he been disciplined by one.
Forsythe, 68, has pleaded not guilty to one count of causing introduction into interstate commerce unapproved drugs, human growth hormone Bio-Tropin, from Israel, and one count of distribution of human growth hormone and aiding and abetting the distribution. If convicted, he faces up to three years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines on both counts. His trial is scheduled for December. He remains free on his own recognizance.
Elaine Crawford, 59, of Reno, has Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurance and has been treated for stage four lymphoma cancer by Forsythe for more than one year. She said on Monday she was supposed to be treated but was told her insurance dropped Forsythe.
Now, she said she must go to a hospital for chemotherapy to be paid for by her insurance. Crawford said Forsythe is an excellent doctor and she will continue to see him for regular office visits, even though she will pay more.
"I'm so angry the insurance company would do that to people facing cancer," she said. "The last thing a person needs is this stress."
Sally Vogler, a Blue Cross and Blue Shield spokeswoman, said the company is referring its members to seven oncologists who practice within five miles of Forsythe's office.
During a 2004 undercover investigation, an FDA investigator had used a Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurance card when he twice bought illegal human growth hormone from Forsythe in October 2004, according to an affidavit.
During one visit, Forsythe recommended the agent take a test called IGF-1, but the agent said his insurance, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, would not pay for it.
The affidavit said the doctor told him if he diagnosed him with hypopituitism, the insurance carrier would pay for it. Later, the agent discovered Forsythe also diagnosed him with having a stroke and hypertension.
An expert told the agent the diagnoses were unreasonable due to his health assessment.
The FDA had been tipped off to Forsythe by an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent who had been given a vial of Bio-Tropin from an informant who said he bought it from Forsythe, who said it would help him build muscles and act as anti-aging medicine, the affidavit said. The informant said Forsythe uses the Israeli drug because it's cheaper.
Publication: Reno Gazette-Journal
A veteran Reno cancer doctor's December trial in federal court has been delayed until May on allegations he trafficked illegal human growth hormone to patients for anti-aging purposes.
Dr. James W. Forsythe, 68, has pleaded not guilty to a September indictment accusing him of giving an undercover Food and Drug Administration agent the human growth hormone Bio-Tropin during a 2004 sting.
Attorneys on both sides had requested additional time to prepare for the case.
Forsythe remains free on his own recognizance.
U.S. District Judge Howard McKibben was assigned to preside over the trial after Judge Brian Sandoval recused himself in October.
The trial has been set for
9 a.m. May 8.
Forsythe is the owner and medical director of Century Wellness Clinic in Reno.
His wife, Earlene, is a partner in the clinic and a registered nurse.
Dr. Forsythe is certified in homeopathy, internal medicine and oncology. After the indictment, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield dropped Forsythe as a preferred physician provider.