Snake Oil Salesmen Hit

Jackpot in Nevada

Snake Oil Salesmen, context

Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners

On the web site of the Reno Integrative Medical Center, homeopath Robert Eslinger provides a telling perspective on the legal and political forces behind the growing campaign to promote medical tourism in Nevada:

Nevada continues to provide the most fertile ground for the development of new treatment methods in a wide variety of non-traditional medical fields. As a result of a less restrictive attitude and more favorable legal climate, Nevada leads the nation and possibly the world in the number of alternative and integrative health care practitioners. Thus, Nevada is developing into a Healing Mecca, attracting patients from all over the country. These medical refugees consist primarily of those afflicted with cancer and other chronic diseases who wish to get well and stay well. -- "Why Nevada?"

The rise of Nevada as a "Healing Mecca"  did not happen overnight.  Instead, the state's peculiar legal climate developed over decades as state officials allowed homeopaths, ordinary physicians, and unlicensed MD's such as Alfred T. Sapse to expand their capacity to profit from offering irrational remedies to vulnerable patients.  During the 1970's, Sapse, who is now under fire for illegal stem-cell research, persuaded Nevada lawmakers to ignore FDA warnings and legalize Gerovital, an anti-aging drug that has been banned in every other state.  The same bill legalized laetrile as a cancer treatment even though it has never been shown to be effective, has been associated with cyanide poisoning, and has been characterized by mainstream medical scientists as akin to suicide for those who are seriously ill.  In 1998, with the same indifference toward medical evidence, the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners approved the use of chelation therapy as an alternative to established approaches to treating heart disease even though this unproven treatment had been rejected by the FDA, the American Heart Association, the Centers for Disease Control and many other medical agencies and associations. 

That same year, Dr. Alan Mintz, who received national attention for his crusade against aging, took advantage of Nevada's loose approach to healthcare to found the Cenegenics Medical Institute in Las Vegas.  A radiologist, Mintz never bothered to obtain a medical license in Nevada and seems to have spent most of his time headlining anti-aging conferences, using his own physique to advertise the benefits of steroid and hormone injections to fight the "disease" of old age.  Mintz was scheduled to tout the effectiveness of his highly dubious treatments, which cost upwards of $10,000 per year, at the annual Age Management Medicine Conference in Las Vegas in November 2007.  However, he seems to have discovered the ultimate cure for aging, having died at the age of 69 as a result of a hemorrhage during a brain biopsy in June.

The longevity doctor's untimely death was memorialized at the conference with the presentation of the Alan P. Mintz Award for Clinical Excellence in Age Management Medicine and, as the epicenter of the anti-aging industry, Nevada offered a long list of potential recipients.  The Mintz prize might have gone to Las Vegas physician Adelaida Resuello, MD, who was recently given a paltry fine of $2000 by the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners for injecting and assisting an unlicensed person to inject fake Botox into unsuspecting patients.  Another plausible prospect was Stephen Seldon, MD, a Las Vegas doctor who also specialized in substituting an unapproved botulism toxin for the more expensive Botox.  Seldon's record with the Nevada Medical Board is clean, but he and his wife, Deborah Martinez Seldon, were arrested last June after a federal grand jury indicted them for mail fraud and other charges related to their fake Botox scheme.

NeoStem  In view of the Seldons' well-publicized legal problems, the Mintz award could have been picked up by Ivan Goldsmith, MD, an anti-aging specialist who serves as medical director of a NeoStem facility which hosted its first procedure during a ceremony at the Trimcare Medical Center in Henderson in November 2007.  NeoStem, a financially troubled but fast-growing company, uses highly invasive methods to collect stem cells from adults in the unlikely event that these cells could prove handy if scientists invent safe and effective adult stem-cell therapies in the relatively near term.  Goldsmith underscored the speculative aspect of NeoStem's pitch to consumers, declaring in a press release, "I believe that both local residents, as well as tourists from around the world, will be inclined to bank their stem cells for their future personal use with the same enthusiasm as they would demonstrate at the gaming tables in a casino."

All of these doctors have done much to sustain Mintz's campaign against old age, but that's not all they have in common.  According to the Las Vegas Sun, Resuello, Seldon, and Goldsmith, along with Joel Lubritz, MD, a plastic surgeon and former member of the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners, were all named as defendants in a civil complaint filed in March 2005 by the U.S. Attorney's Office.  The complaint alleged that they had participated in a scheme involving fraudulent insurance claims and kickbacks paid to employees of  SDI Future Health, Inc., a California-based diagnostic testing services company that operated medical clinics in Nevada. 

As it turned out, the conference leaders did not look far for their winner: the Mintz Prize went to Dr. Jeffrey S. Life, one of Mintz's partners at Cenegenics, who also shows off his own physique to advertise the benefits of human growth hormone and other questionable antidotes to old age.

To understand why so many medical profiteers have prospered in Nevada, it is essential to look at the long history of incompetence at the State Board of Medical Examiners, a record that is especially evident in the supposedly hostile, but, upon closer examination, surprisingly cozy relationship that it has carried on with the Nevada State Board of Homeopathic Medical Examiners, which was established in 1983.

Go to:   1. Introduction    2. Context      3. History      4. Medical Results     5. Political Results

Author: Susan E. Gallagher, Associate Professor, University of Massachusetts                                  Page updated 1/31/08