See NINE TV News 22/09/2016 (Devon)
More below; the names have been changed but the stories are authentic.
I first became aware of the Medical Weightloss Institute through its full page ad in the Brisbane Courier Mail in June this year. I have struggled with obesity for 20+ years following the birth of my last child. At 63 and trying to recover from a torn plantar fascia for 6 months when I saw the ad, I thought this could be the answer for me – viz. a medically supervised mechanism with lots of support from doctors and other staff.
In addition to the stated claims and testimonials in the ad, the words ‘medical institute’ and inclusion of the iconic medical symbol as part of its logo led me to believe the organisation was credible. The ad’s representation convinced me this would be a scientific approach given it was based on blood tests and, I thought, close and ongoing medical oversight.
When I initially responded to the ad, the person I spoke to was very engaging and personable. We discussed my health history to determine if I was suitable for the program. She mentioned that she had lost weight on this program and commented that the medication was key to its success. She gave me her direct line and mobile phone number and went to great pains to reassure me that I could call her any time for support. Given that my program was lasting 35 weeks, I was quoted a total cost of $9,600 but that with the promotional discount it would be $5,420. I was able to pay 50% deposit and the remainder charged to my credit card in fortnightly instalments.
Following this conversation, I received my first email which notified me: “Each of our weight loss programs are custom tailored by our medical team based upon your medical history and a comprehensive blood test analysis. Our team comprises of expert weight loss specialists including doctors, nurses, nutritionists and motivational psychologists……… All of the medications, doctor consultations and pathology tests you receive are included in the cost of the program and will be monitored by our team to ensure that you receive the best possible care….” (full email is attached).
While the cost of the 35 week program was mind-blowing and not really something that I could afford, I committed to it because I believed it was genuine and expected there would be substantial support from the medical staff as well as others. I also assumed there would be periodic repeats of pathology tests to measure changes to the baseline result. Otherwise, what did this incredible amount of money cover???? So I ‘signed on’, paid the deposit of $2,710 and have made fortnightly payments since totalling $774.30 as at today (see payment receipt email attached). After paying the deposit, I was given access to a members-only website that really doesn’t contain the sort of information one would expect to justify the cost of the program. The access to “motivational psychologists” seems to be a number of short videos featuring Geoff Jowett.
Immediately I started to feel uneasy. I then received calls/emails from a ‘coordinator’ and a ‘nurse’. I was told the contact who spoke to me in the beginning and who had given me her direct line and mobile number was not my contact and I would be advised later of my assigned Program Manager/Nutrition Coach. When that person was assigned, I was only given the phone switch number and an email address. I specifically asked for her direct line as her colleague had done previously but this was declined. I cynically mentioned that I wasn’t feeling as supported now that I was ‘on board’!!
I don’t feel the Program Manager/Nutrition Coach provides any expertise in terms of nutrition or talking through side effects as I have outlined in the paragraph below. She simply calls once a week to see how everything is going and parrots what I feel are quite disingenuous statements that are probably said to everyone to be ‘encouraging’. There is no skill here tailored to my circumstances!
Toward the end of the first week on the program, I became acutely constipated and asked the Program Manager if I could discuss this with the MWI doctor. The Program Manager said this was not possible and I should consult my own GP, which I did. However the problem persisted and I wondered if the problem could be caused by one of the prescription drugs. I mentioned that, with what I was paying for this program, I shouldn’t have to also pay for my own GP consultations. The Program Manager then arranged for Dr Jacqui Forrester to phone me. Rather than being friendly and making me feel like I was being supported, she just said to stop the Metformin medication and she would arrange for replacement medication to be sent to me. However this did not fix the problem and I ended up consulting my own GP again for a long consultation that cost me $140.
Very recently I saw a full page ad, again in the Courier Mail while I was visiting family in Brisbane, for Geoff Jowett’s new organisation treating men with testosterone problems. I was flabbergasted and this confirmed once and for all that MWI is simply a rort. I mentioned the ad to my Program Manager when I returned from Brisbane and she informed me this was MWI’s “sister organisation”!! At this point I googled information on MWI which returned the article in the Sydney Morning Herald and a copy of your submission to AHPRA and the ACCC.
Since then I have called the TGA and enquired about the appetite suppressant drug I have been prescribed (Diethlpropion) and found it is not registered with TGA and that the MWI compounding pharmacy seems not to be subject to any regulation in Australia! Information I accessed on the FDA website makes me very concerned about the way this drug has been prescribed for me by MWI. I know I won’t be able to talk to Dr Forrester about my concerns and I shouldn’t have to pay yet again to discuss this with my GP.
I am very embarrassed that I have been ‘taken in’ by MWI. Apart from withdrawing from their program and getting my money back (and I appreciate whatever help you can provide with this), I would like to see them held accountable by the relevant authorities for their malpractices and prevented from establishing ‘institutes’ for other health issues under the guise of medically based treatments.
Hi, I recently read your complaint regarding this program. I am writing to you with embarrassment as I have fallen for this scam. I recently inherited a small amount of money from my father and decided he would want to gift me my health back. I would not of been able to afford this otherwise. I have had some serious medical issues over the years that actually bankrupted me. I am crawling out of the mess I was left in but not before gaining a lot of weight. I tried all sorts of things and was convinced I must have an imbalance. I saw the MWI on Facebook and to me it couldn’t of shown up at a better time. Long story short: I paid them $4400.00 (1/2 price supposedly), the medication they have prescribe can make me feel nauseated, I get a phone call a week and a two page menu suggestion. That’s it! First 3 weeks I lost 3 kilos, fourth week gained one back and tomorrow starting on fifth week.
I can not help to think I am being scammed and this not only infuriates me but I have concerns with the medication. I am sure if I tell them, they will just adjust the concoction.
I have not complained to them yet. Do you have advice on how I should handle this?
I was ripped off by Medical Weightloss Institute. They promised that I would lose a erratic amount of weight within a time frame. It did not lose the weight and they extended the program. Not with any extra medication or anything, just a suggestion for a change of breakfast smoothie. I did not lose any more weight and have put it all back on. I was so disheartened by their lack of concern and frequent change of staff who spoke to me, I asked for a refund and received $149.37. I paid $2,495.
They are snake oil salesmen and I caution anybody to think again and go to their doctor who sees them and knows them rather than a disembodied voice who does not know you or have any interest in you apart from your money.
I was relieved to see the SMH article exposed them as frauds.
I also have done this paid $2500 plus fees which were not stated at the start of the program. I saw this originally in the body and soul newspaper. I definitely got scammed.
Doctor didn’t even ring me, I had to ring him, blood tests cost me extra in money, out of my pocket as Medicare didn’t cover all of it. After 6 weeks I got a phone call saying my program was about to end. What the! I said no way I haven’t lost 10kgs. I rang many times to be told my coach will ring me back, never did. I then sent an email and said I was not very happy about the message received stating program end when I haven’t even been spoken to. I also had 3 different coaches. When I told them I was getting onto body and soul they said they would give me another 6 weeks. They sent me more tablets. I have lost 2kgs but that’s it. I then got told that I need to exercise more so have added body pump and more cardio to my routine. I eat healthy and take the tablets but have just plateaued in my weight. 2kgs is all I’ve lost. Tablets don’t do anything. Now I have to pay $58 per week if I want to stay on the program, which is doing nothing for me. My opinion is it’s a waste of money. Weight loss coaches that you can’t get a hold of ever and basically all you get are some tablets and then ur on your own. $2500+ waste of money”.
I have paid for this yesterday afternoon; the girl gave me 5 minutes to decide I haven’t received anything as yet is there any way I can get my money back? Desperate and feeling very sick about this scam $3500 down the drain that I really can’t afford but am desperate. Is there anyone that I can contact to help me????