MD’s Appeal in PHP, Medical Board Lawsuit Denied (Medscape News Article)

Screen Shot 2017-10-02 at 2.46.00 AM.pngSource:  http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/885577

MD’s Appeal in PHP, Medical Board Lawsuit Denied

Pauline Anderson

September 19, 2017

An appeal by a physician whose lawsuit against the North Carolina Physician Health Program (NCPHP) and the North Carolina Medical Board (NCMB) was thrown out by a lower court last November has been denied. But Kernan Manion, MD, is pursuing an “alternate route to justice.”

Following the lower court ruling, Dr Manion, a practicing psychiatrist for some 30 years, appealed his case to the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, a court second only to the US Supreme Court. His lawsuit claimed loss of significant and potential earnings as well as public humiliation, irreparable harm to his professional reputation, and severe emotional distress.

The court found that Dr Manion’s appeal exceeded the statute of limitations and therefore could not be heard.

“The court strictly enforces the time limits for filing petitions for rehearing and petitions for rehearing en banc in accordance with Local Rule 40(c). The petition in this case is denied as untimely. The court denies the motion for leave to file the petition for rehearing out of time,” the order reads.

Dr Manion told Medscape Medical News he wasn’t surprised by the decision and maintains that the medical board and NCPHP deliberately employed stall tactics to “eat up the statute of limitations window.

“The law is structured in such a way that automatic deference is given to these licensing bodies ― medical boards and PHPs ― both at the state level and the federal level, and precedent is so greatly in their favor,” said Dr Manion.

He has no plans to pursue his case in the US Supreme Court.

“The bottom line is that it can’t be won in court, anywhere really, when you get right down to it. That’s because these agencies claim sovereign immunity,” he said.

Sovereign Immunity for PHPs

However, Dr Manion is pursuing another route ― allegations of anticompetitive practices.

In light of a US Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against the North Carolina Dental Board, he has written to the FTC in the hope that a comprehensive investigation will be launched in his case so that “this harmful anticompetitive civil rights and due process-denying behavior will be halted.”

As previously reported by Medscape Medical News, Dr Manion’s case dates back to September 2009, when he worked as a civilian psychiatrist under contract with the Deployment Health Center at Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune, in Jacksonville, North Carolina. After he raised concerns with the Navy and a personnel contractor about what he believed was dangerously deficient care of active duty service members who had posttraumatic stress disorder, he was dismissed.

He brought a wrongful termination suit under the federal Whistleblower Protection Act alleging retaliatory discharge. He said he was later harassed and followed, actions that prompted him to meet with the local police chief about concerns for his personal safety.

Shortly thereafter, Dr Manion said he was notified by the NCMB that an anonymous police source had expressed concern about his mental health and that, on the basis of these concerns, the NCMB was opening an investigation.

On a recommendation from the NCMB investigator, Dr Manion obtained an independent comprehensive psychological evaluation, which concluded that he did not have any mental disorder or impairment and that there was no basis to take any action that would restrict his medical license.

Despite this, the NCMB ordered its own assessment of Dr Manion. This assessment, carried out by Warren Pendergast, MD, who was then NCPHP chief executive officer and medical director, as well as a staff social worker, concluded that Dr Manion was mentally ill.

In his initial lawsuit, Dr Manion, who had never previously been disciplined by any licensing body, said he was forced to deactivate his medical license after the NCMB acted upon “wrongful and flawed” diagnoses made through the NCPHP.

Dr Manion’s case was originally dismissed in federal district court because the complaint was deemed to be outside of the statute of limitations and because the court considers that as a state institution, the NCPHP has “sovereign immunity” and therefore cannot be sued.

The NCMB said in a statement issued to Medscape Medical News that it “was gratified, but not surprised by the United States Court of Appeals’ decision that affirmed the dismissal of Dr Manion’s lawsuit. That decision, like the decision of the United States District Court, was well-reasoned and well-supported by precedent.

“The North Carolina Physicians Health Program has done much great work to improve the lives of North Carolina physicians who suffer from mental illness and substance abuse. We look forward to continuing that important work with the Physicians Health Program in the future.”

Similarly, Joseph P. Jordan, PhD, clinical director of the NCPHP, said the organization “was pleased that the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the United States District Court’s sound reasoning in its dismissal of Dr Manion’s lawsuit.”

“Alternate Route to Justice”

While his appeal was being considered, Dr Manion studied the decision in the case North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission, which was heard by the US Supreme Court.

In that case, the FTC filed a complaint against the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners alleging that the board was preventing entrepreneurs from offering tooth-whitening services in shopping mall kiosks and were claiming that these groups were practicing dentistry without a license.

The FTC argued that the dental examiners board’s actions constituted an unreasonable restraint of trade by stifling market competition under the Sherman Antitrust Act and that its actions constituted unfair restraint of competition under the Federal Trade Commission Act.

Lower courts determined that state immunity did not apply because the action taken by the board was not actively supervised by the state. The case went to the US Supreme Court, which, in 2015, sided with the FTC.

“The Supreme Court ruled that the dental board doesn’t even meet the criteria to be a state agency eligible to claim sovereign immunity,” said Dr Manion.

“That case was seminal in establishing the necessity of state occupational licensing boards having active government oversight, and it also found that [the] NC dental [board] committed antitrust violations.”

He sees parallels with his own case and that of other physicians across the country, many of whom have been “grievously harmed” by the actions of PHPs and related organizations, he claims.

These actions have jeopardized the health and well-being of patients “by wrongfully depriving them of these physicians’ competent and compassionate care,” he wrote in a letter to the FTC.

In the letter, Dr Manion laid out what he called “the strongest argument yet” for challenging “the pattern of severe and harmful anticompetitive activity” being undertaken by the NCMB, the NCPHP, and the North Carolina Medical Society.

“I tried to point out that this isn’t a disciplinary matter. This is an anticompetitive, anticonsumer matter,” said Dr Manion. “What PHPs have done around the country is coalesce around this false AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] model and are sending people to their preferred institutions out of state, and so they’re running a racket.”

Dr Manion hopes this strategy will offer him an “alternate route to justice.”

brief of his appeal is publicly available through PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records), a service provided by the Federal Judiciary.

Dr Jordan said the NCPHP sees “no merit in commenting upon Dr Manion’s effort to draw hypothetical parallels to a case involving other federal and state agencies.”

For its part, the NCMB said that “since we have yet to see or receive a complaint, it’s impossible to comment. And unless or until NCMB receives a complaint, we will not engage in an academic discussion of FTC v Dental Board.”

 


Those wishing to lodge complaints with the FTC should contact Alan Friedman at  AFRIEDMAN@ftc.gov.

Advertisements

Class Action Suit Filed Against Michigan PHP Alleging Constitutional Violations Related to Involuntary Treatment—Looking for Attorneys Familiar with (or Willing to Learn About) PHP Issues to File Similar Suits Including here in Massachusetts

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 1.59.40 AMSurvey indicating same patterns across the country–Looking for attorneys familiar with (or more importantly willing to learn about) professional health program legal issues who can file similar suits including Here in Massachusetts.

The issues are the same and include:

1. False assessments and diagnoses.
2. Forensic fraud and falsified drug and alcohol tests.
3. Collusion with third party commercial labs to commit fraud.
4. Establishment clause violations.
5. HIPAA Violations.
6. Anti-trust violations.
7. Ultra vires acts as non-profit agencies including the unlawful practice of medicine.

Please click on the links above to see detailed examples and discussions of these issues.  It is an open area as my survey has revealed an additional factor stacking the deck and removing accountability from PHPs.

The attorneys ostensibly representing doctors are also part of the racket.

A doctor referred to a PHP will be given a list of 3 or 4 attorneys by the PHP who are “experienced in working with the medical board.” What they do not tell you is that theses attorneys are hand-picked or cultivated to abide by the rules dictated by the PHP.

They will not “bite the hand that feeds” and any procedural, ethical or criminal misconduct by the PHP will not be addressed.

See “Competent, Ethical and Fair Legal Representation for Doctors–A Possible New Niche Area for Lawyers.”

My survey also indicates some states are worse than others and North Carolina, Washington, Florida and Massachusetts are over-represented as far as misconduct and ethical violations.

Disrupted Physician

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 1.59.40 AMA Federal class action lawsuit has been filed in the Eastern District of Michigan against the state PHP program alleging constitutional violations related to the forced medical treatment of health care professionals involved in the State’s  “Professionals Health Program” (PHP)  and the “callous and reckless termination of professional licenses without due process.”  According to the complaint:

“The Health Professional Recovery Program (HPRP) was established by the Michigan Legislature as a confidential, non-disciplinary approach to support recovery from substance use or mental health disorders. The program was designed to encourage impaired health professionals to seek a recovery program before their impairment harms a patient or damages their careers through disciplinary action. Unfortunately, a once well-meaning program, HPRP, has turned into a highly punitive and involuntary program where health professionals are forced into extensive and unnecessary substance abuse/dependence treatment under the threat of the arbitrary application of pre-hearing deprivations (Summary Suspension) by LARA.filed…

View original post 1,346 more words

Monopolies, Self-Referral and Shell Games: The Need for Antitrust Investigation of Physician Health Programs and their “PHP-Approved” Assessment and Treatment Centers

On the above list can be found the Medical Directors of a number of drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities. I did not make up this list. An updated version can be seen right here on the “like-minded doc” website.

Talbott, Marworth, Hazelden, Promises, and another two-dozen or so “PHP-approved” assessment and treatment centers are represented on this list. State Physician Health Programs (PHPs) refer doctors to these facilities for evaluations. PHPs are non-profit tax-exempt organizations. They do not evaluate or treat patients. If a physician is referred to a PHP for a suspected problem the assessment must be done at an outside facility which will invariably be linked to a name on the list of Like-Minded Docs.

What most people do not know, however, is that this is an exclusive arrangement. Evaluations are constrained to one of these facilities. It is mandated. No bargaining. No compromises. No choice. In other words it is a coercion.

Disrupted Physician

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 11.06.22 PM

Three shells and a pea–ASAM, FSPHP, and LMD.

“PHP-Approved” Assessment and Treatment Centers

On the above list  can be found the Medical Directors of a number of drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities.  I did not make up this list.  An updated version can be seen right here on the “like-minded doc” website.

Talbott, Marworth, Hazelden, Promises, and another two-dozen or so “PHP-approved”  assessment and treatment centers are represented on this list.    State Physician Health Programs (PHPs) refer doctors to these facilities for evaluations.  PHPs are non-profit tax-exempt organizations.  They do not evaluate or treat patients.   If a physician is referred to a PHP for a suspected problem the assessment must be done at an outside facility which will invariably be linked to a name on the list of Like-Minded Docs.

What most people do not know, however, is that this is an exclusive arrangement.    Evaluations are constrained to one of these facilities…

View original post 95 more words

Monopolies, Self-Referral and Shell Games: The Need for Antitrust Investigation of Physician Health Programs and their “PHP-Approved” Assessment and Treatment Centers

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 11.06.22 PM

Three shells and a pea–ASAM, FSPHP, and LMD.

“PHP-Approved” Assessment and Treatment Centers

On the above list  can be found the Medical Directors of a number of drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities.  I did not make up this list.  An updated version can be seen right here on the “like-minded doc” website.

Talbott, Marworth, Hazelden, Promises, and another two-dozen or so “PHP-approved”  assessment and treatment centers are represented on this list.    State Physician Health Programs (PHPs) refer doctors to these facilities for evaluations.  PHPs are non-profit tax-exempt organizations.  They do not evaluate or treat patients.   If a physician is referred to a PHP for a suspected problem the assessment must be done at an outside facility which will invariably be linked to a name on the list of Like-Minded Docs.

What most people do not know, however, is that this is an exclusive arrangement.    Evaluations are constrained to one of these facilities.   It is mandated.   No bargaining.  No compromises. No choice.  In other words it is a coercion.

“What’s wrong with that?” some may ask.  These facilities are all recognized as top-drawer and first-class.  Perhaps they were hand-picked on objective criteria and the PHPs are just making sure that doctors get the best assessments money can buy– decision making by experts based on knowledge and experience–picking a winner so you don’t have to.

via Monopolies, Self-Referral and Shell Games: The Need for Antitrust Investigation of Physician Health Programs and their “PHP-Approved” Assessment and Treatment Centers.

Disrupted Physician 101.1: The “Impaired Physician Movement” and the History of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM).

Disrupted Physician 101.1: The “Impaired Physician Movement” and the History of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM).

Henry David Thoreau

“With one arm around the shoulder of religion and the other around the shoulder of medicine, we might change the world.”—Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, AA World Services, Inc (1953).

In 1985 the British sociologist G. V. Stimson wrote:

“The impaired physician movement is characterized by a number of evangelical recovered alcoholic and addict physicians, whose recovery has been accompanied by an involvement in medical society and treatment programs. Their ability to make authoritative pronouncements on physician impairment is based on their own claim to insider’s knowledge.”

The American Society of Addiction Medicine’s mission is to “establish addiction medicine as a specialty recognized by professional organizations, governments, physicians, purchasers, and consumers of health care products, and the general public.”  

In this they have succeeded.images-4

And in the year 2014 Stimson’s characterization of the “impaired physician movement” remains as accurate and apt as it was in 1985. But the “number of evangelical recovered alcoholic and addict physicians” has increased dramatically  (outnumbering Addiction Psychiatry by 4:1)  and their involvement in  medical society and treatment programs” has been realized and enforced through the state Physician Health Programs and their “PHP-approved’ assessment and treatment centers.

Their “ability to make authoritative pronouncements on physician impairment…based on their own claim to insider’s knowledge”  has become public policy and sanctified by Regulatory Medicine.

And the 1953 Alcoholics Anonymous prophecy that “With one arm around the shoulder of religion and the other around the shoulder of medicine, we might change the world” is also coming to pass.

But the world is not changing for the better as that arm around the shoulder of religion has its fingers deep in the pockets of the multi-billion dollar drug and alcohol testing and assessment and treatment industries.  And the arm around the shoulder of medicine has its fingers clamped tightly around its throat; a stranglehold in full throttle suffocating the Profession of Medicine with no meaningful opposition I can see.

When Dentists Go Too Far: North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 12.25.17 PMhttp://www.forbes.com/sites/georgeleef/2015/03/04/eeoc-keeps-its-losing-streak-intact-reinforces-the-case-against-administrative-law/


The recent strike down of anticompetitive regulation in N.C. dental case opens the door to antitrust litigation against other state Regulatory Agencies such as Medical Boards.

The Federation of State Physician Health Programs has set up a “hidden” system of coercion and control using various methods (policy and moral entrepreneurship, changes in state medical practice acts and administrative procedure, misuse of health law, etc.) to create a system that lacks oversight and regulation. As a power unto themselves they are accountable to no one.

Although originally funded by medical societies and staffed by volunteer doctors in order to help sick colleagues and protect the public, any system can be subverted for profit and power, and these programs have been taken over by groups representing the multi-billion dollar drug and alcohol testing, assessment and treatment industry and become reservoirs of bad medicine and fraud. All manner of abuse can be hidden under a veil of benevolence. Although most are afraid to speak publicly under fear of punishment and retaliation (“swift and certain” consequences, summary suspension) I have herd from many many doctors in multiple states. Their stories are all the same.

In addition to misconduct related to the non-FDA laboratory developed tests (they themselves introduced into the market using a loophole that bypasses FDA approval) there are reports of coercion into unneeded evaluation and treatment at a couple dozen or so “PHP-approved” facilities under threat of loss of licensure.

Reports to a state PHP can be done anonymously with confidentiality guaranteed to the reporter. Any report will result in a meeting with the state PHP and if they feel a licensee is in need of an assessment they require it be done at a “PHP-approved” assessment center.

As non-profit tax exempt corporations, PHPs do not provide clinical assessments. They can only recommend assessments.  State Regulatory Agencies (Medical Boards, Nursing Boards, etc.) have accepted the PHPs requirements of limiting assessments to those approved by the PHP.   In fact many states mandate assessments to solely  “PHP-approved” assessment centers under threat of summary suspension of a professional license.

An Audit of the North Carolina PHP by State Auditor Beth Woods, however,  found financial conflicts-of-interest in the use of these predominantly out-of-state assessment facilities to which the N.C. PHP was referring and the state Medical Board was requiring.  Woods requested the qualitative indicators and quantitative measures used to  “approve” these assessment centers from the N.C. PHP but they were unable to produce any documentation showing any quality indicators or objective criteria existed!  The best response they could come up with was “informal” methods and “reputation.” The full audit can be seen here.

Imagine if the FDA gave this reply if  asked to provide the criteria used to “approve” medications or medical devices in the “FDA-approval” process!

Making matters even worse, the Medical Director of the N.C. PHP, Dr. Warren Pendergast was serving as President of their national organization, the FSPHP at the time of the audit.

The simple fact is no criteria exist.

A recent class action lawsuit in Eastern Michigan found this same pattern of referral to out-of-state assessment and treatment centers ( Marworth, Talbott, Hazelden. Promises,etc.)

State referrals to “PHP-approved” facilities has become a matter of public policy. Both the American Society of Addiction Medicine and the Federation of State Medical Boards have issued public policy statements stating that only “PHP-approved” centers be utilized by Regulatory Agencies in the assessment and treatment of their licensees.  Moreover, these policies specifically exclude “non-PHP-approved facilities and often involve a limited time-frame.  No choice, no appeal and no bartering.  Do it. Do it now and if you don’t suffer the consequences.

These public policy statements can be seen in the 2011 ASAM “Public Policy Statement on Coordination between Treatment Providers, Professionals Health Programs and Regulatory Agencies” and the 2011 FSMB “updated Policy on Physician Impairment.”  Many state Regulatory Agencies have strictly adhered to these policy recommendations.

What this means is that  states are mandating evaluations at  “PHP-approved” facilities even though there is no documentable or plausible reason for doing so.  No measurable criteria exist as to how the list of “approved” facilities were “approved” yet they have “cornered the market,” removed choice and created an imposed monopoly under threat of loss of professional licensure.

In reality no official “PHP-approved” list exists.  Neither does any objective published criteria for approving them.  At the same time state Regulatory Agencies and Boards are forcing evaluations on licensed professionals at these couple-dozen or so facilities.  They are excluding patient autonomy and choice violating the fundamental freedoms of the individual and informed consent.

All semblance of due process has been removed.  If  a plausible reason existed (i.e. they met some minimum standard of credentialing, quality or patient outcome) for referring to a proscribed list of assessment centers it could be arguably justified.  Without such criteria, and in light of the economic and ideological conflicts of interest involved, it is patently unjustifiable.

Even more disturbing is, as Drs. John Knight and J. Wesley Boyd (who collectively have more than 20 years experience as Associate Directors at the Massachusetts PHP, PHS, Inc.) pointed out in their 2012 paper published in the Journal of the American Society of Addiction Medicine,  many of these facilities are willing to “tailor” the diagnosis and recommendations of an evaluation to fit the wishes of the PHP.    “Tailoring” an assessment and recommendations to anything other than what the true data show is healthcare fraud.  It is, in fact,  the political abuse of psychiatry.

PHPs started out as “Physicians Health Programs” but many are transitioning to “Professionals Health Programs”  to widen the net.  For example in Michigan  and Florida the state PHP covers all health care practitioners from Acupuncturists to Veterinarians. PHPs have also entered non -healthcare employee assistance programs (EAPs) such as the aviation industry and the grand plan is expansion to  non-healthcare professions. They are doing this by claiming remarkable success rates and brandishing themselves as the “gold-standard” of substance abuse treatment.   Interestingly, the same individuals claiming how successful PHP programs are are the same individuals profiting from the drug and alcohol testing they introduced.  Anyone with any sort of license is at risk.

So whether you cut hair, teach, take care of patients or even drive a car they could be coming after you next and they don’t have to convince you of the validity and reliability of their services–they only need to convince those who regulate your license and, as we have seen, they are very accomplished at persuasion in this department.

And that is why we need more state audits of PHPs and Medical Boards.  The starting point is simple. Request from the state PHP and Board  a  list of “PHP-approved” facilities and the criteria by which they were approved. What should be a simple reply will undoubtedly not be as they will not be able to provide either.

Article 8

Antitrust litigation hasn’t disappeared, but rather changed its focus. Instead of targeting the great railroad empires of the late 19th century, today’s antitrust efforts focus on more minute industries, like dentistry.

View original post 2,385 more words

An Open Letter to Senator Elizabeth Warren Regarding Laboratory Developed Tests, Physician Health Programs and Institutional Injustice

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 9.54.30 PM

—There is no place in science for consensus or opinion, only evidence.-Claude Bernard

Dear Senator Warren,

Thank you for your reply regarding laboratory developed tests (LDTs) and the need for regulatory oversight.   As you mention, LDTs are developed without FDA approval—a pathway in which is not even necessary to prove validity of a test (that it is actually testing what it claims to be testing for) to bring it to market. With no FDA oversight or regulation a commercial lab can claim any validity they want in marketing these tests. The regulation debate has focused on the reliability and validity of a number of clinical tests marketed with unverified claims of accuracy such as prenatal screening and Lyme disease and this lack of oversight is a direct threat to patient safety.

I am sure you would agree with me that the importance of tests diagnostic accuracy is directly proportional to that tests potential to cause patient harm if reported inaccurately.

Sensitivity and specificity are important components of any diagnostic test because there are consequences associated with both false-positive and false negative results.

A test falsely indicating the absence of a condition in someone who truly has it can delay or prevent needed treatment wile a test falsely indicating the presence of a condition in someone who does not truly have it can result in unnecessary testing and treatment.

Incorrect treatment and false labeling of patients can also occur. Therefore diagnostic accuracy is paramount if a test is being used as the basis for further tests and treatment. Any test being used as a basis for further tests or treatment needs to be accurate. It needs to be reliable and valid. Moreover, if the consequences of a test can result in significant patient harm (such as unneeded chemotherapy) it needs to be either 100% accurate or be combined with other tests to confirm the true diagnosis.

 “Forensic” vs. “Clinical” Laboratory Testing

“Forensic” testing differs from “clinical” testing because of the consequences and the process is tightly controlled because false-positive results are unacceptable as the consequences can be grave, far-reaching and even permanent.

Forensic testing demands special handling and safeguards to protect the donor such as validated tests, certified labs, strict chain-of-custody procedures and MRO (Medical Review Officer) review. These safeguards of quality control assure the validity and integrity of the specimen.   The LDT pathway was not designed for forensic tests.

Forensic Laboratory Developed Tests (LDTs)

 Paradoxically, laboratory developed tests with the potential to cause  life-changing and possibly irreparable harm have been absent from the regulatory debate; LDT drug and alcohol tests used for “forensic” monitoring purposes.

A panoply of tests using urine, blood, hair, fingernails breath and saliva have been developed and brought to market since 2003 when the first one was introduced by Gregory Skipper, then Medical Director of the Alabama Physicians Health Program, who “convinced the initial lab in the USA, NMS near Philadelphia to start performing EtG testing.” 1

Developed as an LDT, Skipper and NMS then claimed the alcohol biomarker (which was discovered in the 1950s) “appeared to be 100 percent specific” in detecting covert use of alcohol based on a study he coauthored that involved a mere 35 forensic psychiatric inpatients in Germany, all male. 2   With this “evidence-base” and a not yet published paper in the pipeline,3   Skipper then pitched the test to the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) as an accurate and reliable tool detect covert alcohol use in health care professionals.

Policy Entrepreneurship

In  “Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies,”4 John W. Kingdon describes the problem, policy and political streams involved in public policy making.   When these three streams come together a specific problem becomes important on the agenda, policies matching the problem get attention, and then policy change becomes possible.

Kingdon also describes “policy entrepreneurs’ who use their knowledge of the process to further their own policy ends. They ‘lie in wait… with their solutions at hand, waiting for problems to float by to which they can attach their solutions, waiting for a development in the political stream they can use to their advantage.”4

And due to a perfect confluence of streams ( Institute of Medicine report that 44,000 people die each year due to medical error,5 media reports of “impaired physicians,”  the the war-on-drugs, etc.)  the FSMB was swayed into accepting not just the validity but the necessity of using an alcohol biomarker of unknown reliability and validity on doctors referred to or monitored by state Physician Health Programs (PHPs) .

As the national organization that gives guidance to state medical boards through public policy development and recommendations, the individual state medical boards adopted use of the test without critical appraisal and no meaningful opposition.

Shortly after its founding in 1912, the FSMB began publishing a  journal called the Quarterly of the Federation of State Boards of the United States. Now known as the Journal of Medical Regulation, the publication has archived all issues with full articles dating back to 1967 and, as the official journal of the national organization involved in  medical licensing and regulation this facilitates an unskewed and impartial examination of how and when specific issues and problems were presented and who presented them and, in doing so, the “policy entrepreneurship” Kingdon describes can be seen quite clearly. For example a 1995 issue containing articles written by the program directors of PHPs in 8 different states contains an FSMB editorial acknowledging the reported 90% success rate claimed of these programs (in part attributed to the 90-day inpatient treatment programs) that concludes:

“Cooperation and communication between the medical boards and the physician health programs must occur in an effort to protect the public while assisting impaired physicians in their recovery.” 6

No one bothered to examine the methodology of these reports to discern the validity of the claims and it is this acceptance of faith without objective assessment that has allowed the passage of flawed public policy in medical regulation.

Nowhere  is “policy entrepreneurship” more glaringly displayed as it is in a 2004 issue promoting the use of EtG in monitoring doctors as under the same cover is an article identifying both the need7 for such a test and an article providing the solution.8  

“Detection of Alcohol Use in Monitored Aftercare Programs: A National Survey of State Physician Health Programs,” a survey of state Physician Health Programs (PHPs) concludes that “surreptitious alcohol use” is a significant concern” for PHPs, there is no current  “best method” for detection,  but a promising new test  with “exceptional specificity (100 percent) and sensitivity” in detecting small amounts of alcohol for up to 18 hours has recently become available.7

This same issue contains an article authored by Skipper about a new marker “not detectable unless alcohol has been consumed” recently introduced in the United States and now commercially available.”8

Notably absent from both of these articles is Skipper’s role in the commercial availability of the test. This conflict-of-interest is nowhere mentioned in this display of “creating a market then filling it.”

This “regulatory sanctification” of the test implied its tacit approval by the medical profession  (i.e. “if they are using it on doctors it must be valid”) and facilitated its marketing  to other monitoring agencies (nurses, airline pilots) as well as  Courts and Probation Departments where those doing the monitoring had absolute power while those being monitored had no voice.

Bent Science

In Bending Science: How Special Interests Corrupt Public Health Research9, Thomas McGarity and Wendy Wagner describe how special interest groups scheme to advance their own economic or ideological goals by using carefully crafted distorted or “bent” science to influence legal, regulatory and public health policy.  The authors describe how those making these decisions often assume the information that reaches them has been sufficiently vetted by the scientific community as it flows through a pipeline of rigorous peer-review and professional oversight and that the final product that exits the pipeline is unbiased and produced in accordance with the norms and procedures of science.

McGarity and Wagner note the serious and sometimes horrific consequences of bent science and provide examples involving Tobacco and Big Pharma . The authors call for:

“..immediate action to reduce the role that bent science plays in regulatory and judicial decision making” and the need for the scientific community to be involved in “designing and implementing reform.”

“Shedding even a little light on how advocates bend policy -relevant science could go a long way toward remedying these problems.  Indeed, precisely because the advocates have overtaken the law in this area, heightened attention to the social costs of bending science could itself precipitate significant change.”

In the case of EtG this shedding of light is not very hard as no “carefully crafted” studies bending science were used to sway opinion.   None existed. The only items in the pipeline were directly related to Skipper.  If anyone dare to look, the Emperor has no clothes.

Lack of Answerability and Accountability

There are difficulties in challenging bent science including a general lack of recognition of the problem and an absence of counter-studies to oppose deliberately manufactured ends-oriented research.   This has proven true with the myriad LDTs introduced into the marketplace as no counter-forces or competing economic interests producing counter-studies exist.

Multiple lawsuits, including a class-action, have been decided in favor of the labs who have taken a stand-your-ground approach supported by a body of industry-related “research” they or their affiliates produced to support the validity and reliability of the tests.

Those affected by these tests either have no power or have had their power removed. Most do not have the resources to mount a defense let alone produce counter-studies questioning the reliability and validity of the tests.

Most employee drug testing follows Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) guidelines using FDA-approved tests that have specific cutoff levels defining a positive-result in an effort to eliminate false-positive results.10  Procedural safeguards are in place in these programs to protect the donor.  Forensic testing programs using LDTs provide no such safeguards as the testing is unregulated and there is no oversight from outside actors.

Unlike clinical LDTs “forensic” LDTs are even exempt from CLIA oversight.   The only avenue for complaint is through the College of American Pathologists (CAP) and, as an accrediting agency, they can only address problems by ensuring compliance with CAP guidelines.   If an investigation concludes lab error or misconduct CAP can mandate the lab correct the test result and come into compliance with their guidelines under threat of loss of accreditation but no other consequences exist.  Accountability has been removed yet the  consequences to those harmed by these are significant and without remedy.

State Physician Health Programs

As is the case with the LDTs  they introduced, Physician Health Programs have no oversight or regulation.   A 2013 Audit of the North Carolina PHP 11 prompted by complaints from doctors and performed by State Auditor Beth Woods found absolutely no oversight of the program by either the state medical board or medical society and that “abuse could occur without being detected.”

The Audit also found that doctors were predominantly referred to the same “PHP-approved” out-of-state facilities to which they in part attribute their high success rates in treatment. Interestingly the PHP could not identify what quality indicators or quantitative measurements were used by the PHP to “approve” the “PHP-approved” facilities.

In January of 2015 a Federal class action lawsuit was filed in the Eastern District of Michigan against the state PHP program and found health care providers were subject to the same referral system using these out-of-state facilities. The suit alleges constitutional violations related to the forced medical treatment of health care professionals and the “callous and reckless termination of professional licenses without due process.” 12

As with North Carolina, the Michigan PHP will be unable to provide what quality indicators and quantitative measurements are being used to “qualify” and “approve these facilities.    None exist. The sole indicators for approving these assessment centers are ideological and economic. In fact, the medical directors of most, if not all, of these facilities can be seen on this list of “like-minded docs.” 

Institutional Injustice

You once said “People feel like the system is rigged against them. And here’s the painful part: they’re right. The system is rigged.”

So too is this system.

As the Michigan lawsuit notes: “Unfortunately, a once well-meaning program has turned into a highly punitive and involuntary program where health professionals are forced into extensive and unnecessary substance abuse/dependence treatment under the threat of the arbitrary application of pre-hearing deprivations.”

This has become the rule not the exception. The Federation of State Physician Health Programs (FSPHP), the same group to which Dr. Skipper belongs, has systematically taken over these programs state by state by removing competent and caring doctors not agreeing with the groupthink and silenced them under threat of litigation if they violate their confidentiality agreements and “peer review” statutes.

The same system of coercion, control and abuse exists in Massachusetts.  In the past week alone I have heard from a medical student, a resident and two doctors who complained of misconduct  misconduct involving fraudulent testing and falsified diagnoses.

In “Ethical and Managerial Considerations Regarding State Physician Health Programs,” published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine in 2012, Drs. John Knight, M.D. and J. Wesley Boyd, M.D., PhD who collectively have more than 20 years experience with the Massachusetts Physician Health Program (PHP) state that:

“Because PHP practices are unknown to most physicians before becoming a client of the PHP, many PHPs operate out- side the scrutiny of the medical community at large. Physicians referred to PHPs are often compromised to some degree, have very little power, and are, therefore, not in a position to voice what might be legitimate objections to a PHP’s practices.”13

Noting that “for most physicians, participation in a PHP evaluation is coercive, and once a PHP recommends monitoring, physicians have little choice but to cooperate with any and all recommendations if they wish to continue practicing medicine,” Knight and Boyd raise serious ethical and managerial questions about current PHP policies and practice including conflicts of interest in referrals for evaluation and treatment, lack of adherence to standards of care for forensic testing of substances of abuse, violations of ethical guidelines in PHP research, and conflicts of interest with state licensing boards.

Knight and Boyd recommend “the broader medical community begin to reassess PHP’s as a whole” and that “consideration be given toward the implementation of independent ethical oversight and establish and appeals process for PHP clients who feel they are being treated unfairly.” 13

They recommend the relationship between PHP’s and the evaluation and treatment centers and licensing boards be transparent and that national standards be developed “that can be debated by all physicians, not just those who work within PHPs.”13

Accountability, or answerability, is necessary to prevent corruption.  This requires both the provision of information and justification for actions.    What was done and why? Accountability also requires that consequences be imposed on those who engage in misconduct.

In discussing the financial conflicts-of-interest between PHPs and “PHP-approved” assessment centers Knight and Boyd state:

“..if a PHP highlights a physician as particularly problematic, the evaluation center might–whether consciously or otherwisetailor its diagnosis and recommendations in a way that will support the PHP’s impression of that physician.”  

To “consciously tailor a diagnosis” is fraud. It is political abuse of psychiatry. And it is not only the assessment and treatment centers willing to “tailor” a diagnosis; so too are the labs involved.

Physician Suicide

I can think of nothing more institutionally unjust than an unregulated zero-tolerance monitoring program with no oversight using unregulated drug and alcohol testing of unknown validity.   But that is what is occurring.   Some of us are trying to expose this corrupt system but barriers exist. As with the Laboratory Developed Tests (LDTs), those involved have intentionally taken steps to remove both answerability and accountability.  Both the tests and the body of individuals administering these tests are notable for their lack of transparency, oversight and regulation.  This renders them a power unto themselves.

Doctors (and others coerced into Professional Health Programs) across the country have reported going to law enforcement and state agencies only to be turned away.   The Federation of State Physician Health Programs (FSPHP)  has convinced these outside agencies that this is a “parochial” issue best handled by the medical profession..   Those reporting crimes are turned back over to the very people committing the crimes.

The Massachusetts Medical Society and Massachusetts DPH claim no oversight of the Massachusetts PHP, PHS.inc. The Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine (BORM) will not address ethical or even criminal complaints about the doctors involved in the PHP and there is good evidence that some members of the BORM are in fact complicit in unethical and even criminal behavior. As the Massachusetts AGO represents the BORM they defer issues back to them and dig no deeper.

Drs. Knight and Boyd have suggested State Audits and we are hoping that MA State Auditor Suzanne Bump will investigate the MA PHP and the Board of Registration in Medicine’s Physician Health and Compliance Unit shortly.

One major problem is that barriers have been put in place to prevent information from getting to the right people.

The majority of people at medical societies, boards, departments of public health and other organizations are individuals of integrity and honesty but the system has been erected so that valid complaints are deflected, delayed, dismissed or otherwise tabled by sympathizers, apologists and those complicity.   The criminal activity the Massachusetts PHP is engaging in is undeniable and indefensible but who is going to hold them to account?

It is going to take a while to reform this system of institutional abuse and it has to be done state by state. Please take a look at the facts and documentary evidence and help me hold them accountable. This needs to be exposed, acknowledged and addressed.   Doctors are dying from this system of institutional abuse. It is a public health emergency no one is talking about.  Yet those behind the PHP programs are claiming this system of coercion, abuse and control is the “gold standard” of addiction treatment and, using another loophole, they want to expand this system to mainstream healthcare.

Sincerely,

Michael L. Langan, M.D.

  1. Skipper G. Exploring the Reliability, Frequency, and Methods of Drug Testing: What is Enough to Ensure Compliance?:   Alcohol Markers and Devices. 2013; http://www.fsphp.org/Skipper, Exploring the Reliability Frequency and Methods 2 Presentation.pdf.
  2. Wurst FM, Vogel R, Jachau K, et al. Ethyl glucuronide discloses recent covert alcohol use not detected by standard testing in forensic psychiatric inpatients. Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research. Mar 2003;27(3):471-476.
  3. Skipper GE, Weinmann W, Thierauf A, et al. Ethyl glucuronide: a biomarker to identify alcohol use by health professionals recovering from substance use disorders. Alcohol Alcohol. Sep-Oct 2004;39(5):445-449.
  4. Kingdon JW. Agendas, alternatives, and public policies. Updated 2nd ed. Boston: Longman; 2011.
  5. Leape LL. Institute of Medicine medical error figures are not exaggerated. JAMA : the journal of the American Medical Association. Jul 5 2000;284(1):95-97.
  6. Schneidman B. The Philosophy of Rehabilitation for Impaired Physicians. The Federal Bulletin: The Journal of Medical Licensure and Discipline. 1995;82(3):125-127.
  7. Jansen M, Bell LB, Sucher MA, Stoehr JD. Detection of Alcohol Use in Monitored Aftercare Programs: A National Survey of State Physician Health Programs. Journal of Medical Licensure and Discipline. 2004;90(2):8-13
  8. Skipper G, Weinmann W, Wurst F. Ethylglucuronide (EtG): A New Marker to Detect Alcohol Use in Recovering Physicians. Journal of Medical Licensure and Discipline. 2004;90(2):14-17.
  9. McGarity TO, Wagner WE. Bending Science: How Special Interests Corrupt Public Health Research. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; 2008.
  10. US Department of Health and Human Services. Mandatory guidelines and proposed revisions to mandatory guidelines for federal workplace drug testing programs: notices. Federal Register. April 13, 2004;69(71):19659-19660.
  11. Wood B. State of North Carolina Performance Audit North Carolina Physicians Health Program. . http://www.ncauditor.net/EPSWeb/Reports/Performance/PER-2013-8141.pdf. Accessed March 17, 2015.
  12. U.S. District Court Eastern District of Michigan, Case No: 2:15-cv-10337-AJT-RSW (2015). Carole Lucas, R.N., Tara Vialpandno, R.N., Scott Sanders, R.N., Kelly Schultz, P.A., and all other similarly situated health professionals v. Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, Carole Engel, J.D.Former Director of Michigan Bureau of Health Professions, Ulliance, Inc. (State Contractor), Carolyn Batchelor (HPRP Contract Administrator), Stephen Batchelor (HPRP Contract Administrator), and Nikki Jones, LMSW.   Filed January 30, 2015.
  13. Boyd JW, Knight JR. Ethical and managerial considerations regarding state physician health programs. Journal of addiction medicine. Dec 2012;6(4):243-246.

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 12.40.13 PMScreen Shot 2014-08-06 at 4.50.02 PM

 


photo 2

Class Action Suit Filed Against Michigan PHP Alleging Constitutional Violations Related to Involuntary Treatment

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 1.59.40 AMA Federal class action lawsuit has been filed in the Eastern District of Michigan against the state PHP program alleging constitutional violations related to the forced medical treatment of health care professionals involved in the State’s  “Professionals Health Program” (PHP)  and the “callous and reckless termination of professional licenses without due process.”  According to the complaint:

“The Health Professional Recovery Program (HPRP) was established by the Michigan Legislature as a confidential, non-disciplinary approach to support recovery from substance use or mental health disorders. The program was designed to encourage impaired health professionals to seek a recovery program before their impairment harms a patient or damages their careers through disciplinary action. Unfortunately, a once well-meaning program, HPRP, has turned into a highly punitive and involuntary program where health professionals are forced into extensive and unnecessary substance abuse/dependence treatment under the threat of the arbitrary application of pre-hearing deprivations (Summary Suspension) by LARA.filed in the the State of Michigan and a private contractor (Ulliance, Inc. of Troy, Michigan) engaged in a conspiracy to violate the civil rights of Michigan health professionals by involuntarily subjecting them to excessive and unnecessary treatment for substance abuse and suspending their licenses if they do not comply.”

As is the case with most PHPs across the country taken over by the FSPHP the mechanics and mentality are the same.  Referrals can be made anonymously by “colleagues, partners, hospital administrations, patients, family members, or the State” to the PHP for any health professional (from acupuncturist to veterinarian) exhibiting “potential signs of impairment”

The HPRP website states the names of those reporting are kept confidential “unless testimony is needed at a later disciplinary hearing.”

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 3.28.39 AMAfter initial intake with HPRP, the licensee is referred to a “qualified evaluator” and “If the evaluation indicates a substance use and/or mental health disorder that represent a possible impairment” the HPRP makes referrals for treatment services to an “approved provider.Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 3.29.35 AM

The “qualified evaluators” and “approved providers” are undoubtedly  the same out-of-state  facilities North Carolina state Auditor Beth Woods found her state program was referring to in her audit of the N.C. PHP under the undefinable justification they were “PHP-approved.”

As with North Carolina,  the Michigan PHP will be unable to provide what quality indicators and quantitative measurements are being used to “qualify” and “approve these facilities.    None exist as the common denominators in these “PHP-approved” and state mandated assessment and treatment centers are ideological and economic.  

The medical directors of almost if not all of them can be seen on this list of “like-minded docs.”  The conflicts-of-interest and intertwined relationships among this group is staggering.

The philosophy of Like-Minded Docs is the following:

“We believe that evidence from extensive, well-designed studies demonstrates the great benefits of Twelve-Step recovery modalities including Twelve Step Facilitation in promoting long-term recovery. Further, Twelve-Step modalities are compatible with other treatment strategies including medication-management. We believe that Addiction specialists need to facilitate a path for our patients toward the best possible state of wellness and recovery as they receive treatment for this chronic disease.  We believe a well-rounded educational and clinical preparation for physicians choosing to practice addiction medicine or addiction psychiatry requires a comprehensive exposure to the psychosocial and spiritual modalities of treatment as well as the neurobiological and psychopharmacological modalities.”

This connection needs to be made by both North Carolina and Michigan as the state is mandating treatment not only to assessment and treatment centers with economic conflicts of interest but with ideological ones as well.  Health care practitioners are being forced into evaluations exclusively at 12-step facilities and excluding non-12 step assessment and treatment centers.  This is a clear violation of the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment.

The complaint goes on to state the HPRP:

“has expanded its role to include making treatment decisions in place of the opinions of qualified providers. Licensees are subjected to intake evaluations by a pre-selected cadre of providers who profit from the enrollment of HPRP members. This process culminates in a large number of health professionals receiving a “Monitoring Agreement” which is essentially a nonnegotiable contract for treatment selected by HPRP. While HPRP’s contract with the State requires that treatment be selected by an approved provider and that it be tailored in scope and length to meet the individual licensee’s needs, licensees generally receive the same across-the-board treatment mandates regardless of their diagnosis or condition. Further, treatment providers are not permitted to recommend the specific treatment rendered and HPRP has a policy that only HPRP can set the terms of the treatment required in the contract. Failure to “voluntarily” submit to unnecessary and costly HPRP treatment results in automatic summary suspension..”

“Facing the threat of summary suspension in the event of non-compliance, licensed health professionals are induced into a contract as a punitive tool of BHCS and are often required to refrain from working without prior approval, refrain from taking prescription drugs prescribed by treating physicians, and sign broad waivers allowing HPRP to disclose their private health information to employers, the State of Michigan, and/or treating physicians.”

“Every licensee in the State of Michigan who has received a summary suspension, as a result of HPRP non-compliance, has had their private health data transmitted to the BHCS for use during administrative proceedings. In short, the mandatory requirements of HPRP, coupled with the threat of summary suspension, make involvement in HPRP an involuntary program circumventing the due process rights of licensees referred to the program. The involuntary nature of HPRP policies and procedures as outlined above and the unanimous application of suspension procedures upon HPRP case closure are clear violations of Procedural Due Process under the Fourteenth Amendment.”

This is exactly the same system of institutional injustice seen at Ridgeview under G. Douglas Talbott.  Multiple physician suicides were attributed to these same abuses–involuntary forced treatment under extortion of loss of licensure.  It is time this elephant in the room be addressed in terms of the marked increased in suicide we are seeing now.

 

http://www.chapmanlawgroup.com/hprp-class-action/

Health Professionals File Class Action Against HPRP

Jurisdiction: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan

Subject: Plaintiff’s filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of Michigan health care professionals, alleging constitutional violations related to the forced medical treatment of health care professionals involved in the State’s substance abuse monitoring program (HPRP) and the callous and reckless termination of professional licenses without due process by HPRP and the Bureau of Healthcare Services.

Three Michigan health professionals filed a federal class action for due process violations arising out of execution of a State substance abuse monitoring program known as the Health Professionals Recovery Program. According to the class action lawsuit filed today in the Eastern District of Michigan, the State of Michigan and a private contractor (Ulliance, Inc. of Troy, Michigan) engaged in a conspiracy to violate the civil rights of Michigan health professionals by involuntarily subjecting them to excessive and unnecessary treatment for substance abuse and suspending their licenses if they do not comply.

HPRP, intended as a voluntary treatment program by the legislature, has become a highly punitive and involuntary tool designed to circumvent due process, the complaint states. However, according to the complaint, Carole Engle, the Former Director of the Bureau of Healthcare Services, implemented a policy that any person who does not voluntarily submit to this unnecessary treatment would be immediately suspended without a hearing and prevented from practicing as a health professional. Carole Engle recently resigned her position after Governor Snyder refused to renew her contract with the State of Michigan. It is unclear whether her recent resignation is related to the recently filed class action.

The controversial treatment program has generated a significant amount of criticism in recent years from Michigan health professionals who have called for a class action in an effort to stop HPRP’s abuse of their broad sweeping power. For years, HPRP subjected nurses to three years of intense addiction treatment sometimes on the basis of an anonymous tip.

“We turned to the courts for fairness because HPRP’s mandate of unnecessary treatment has ruined countless lives. My life has been ripped apart by HPRP despite the fact that two evaluators determined that I do not need treatment. I am only one of hundreds who have had to choose between suspension of my license and tens of thousands of dollars worth of treatment that was unnecessary – I just couldn’t afford it, and now I can no longer practice as a nurse” said Carol Lucas, a registered nurse and a Plaintiff in the class action.

Chapman Law Group, a Michigan health care law firm, filed the complaint on behalf of three named Plaintiffs, each of whom fell victim to HPRP’s demand that they submit to unnecessary treatment or have their license suspended. The class includes Michigan health professionals who are or were participants in the Health Professionals Recovery Program during the period from January 1, 2011 to present.

The complaint and amended complaint can be seen below:

Michigan Case 2-15-cv-10337

Michigan Amended Complaint 2-15-cv-10337