MWI: Patient stories

See NINE TV News 22/09/2016 (Devon)

More below; the names have been changed but the stories are authentic.

Rosemary said:

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.

Dorothy said

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?

Christie said:

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.

Beverley said:

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”.

Carrie said:

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????

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A compounding pharmacy has been criticised for dispensing a withdrawn substance… but is the reproval warranted?

The compounder, the doctor and the institute

In response to the defence offered in this AJP article by compounding pharmacist Daryll Knowles and MWI chief spruiker Geoff Jowett (and concerns expressed by Jarrod McMaugh and Jignesh Patel) I provide the following additional information.

The Pharmacy Board Guidelines on Compounding of Medicines state:

S2 “A compounded medicine should be prepared only in circumstances where an appropriate commercial product is unavailable…..The compounding of a medicine (whether prescribed or not) that would be a close formulation to an available and suitable commercial product, and would not be likely to produce a different therapeutic outcome to the commercial product, should not take place. In the case that such a medicine has been prescribed, the pharmacist should notify the prescriber that this medicine cannot be compounded under these circumstances.”

First of all, following a review of the risks and benefits of diethylpropion and related anorectic drugs by the European Committee for Proprietary Medicinal Products (CPMP), the European Commission decided that the drugs’ licences should be withdrawn. Licences were withdrawn in the UK on April 9, 2000 and the drug was also withdrawn by the sponsor in Australia, Canada, and the majority of other countries of the world.

Second, a related weight loss medication, phentermine (Duromine modified release) is registered by the TGA for the management of obesity as a short-term adjunct in a medically monitored comprehensive regimen of weight reduction.

S15. “Pharmacists should ensure that every patient or their agent are offered counselling and relevant consumer medicine information on each occasion a compounded medicine is supplied. Written consumer medicines information leaflets are not usually available for compounded medicines. However, alternative written information should be provided by the pharmacist to assist in the communication of the following counselling points to facilitate the safe and effective use of the compounded product:

  • an explanation of why a compounded product is being supplied, and how this differs to a commercially-available medicine which requires the manufacturer to meet the requirements of the TGA for addition of medicines to the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods;
  • instructions on the correct use of the product;
  • the appropriate storage requirements and expiry date of the product;
  • the side-effect profile of the product, any contraindications and any other specific counselling points which would normally be contained in a written consumer medicines information leaflet, and
  • how to report adverse events”.

Patients have reported both to me and Prof Dixon that the medications arrived by mail from the compounding pharmacy and no written information was provided about the dot points above. Hence the AHPRA notification of compounding pharmacist Daryll Knowles.

In the AJP article Mr Knowles asserted that:

  • Diethylpropion was associated with less reported adverse reactions than celecoxib; however given the vast difference in prescribing rates that defence is meaningless.
  • The TGA had provided him with an permit to import diethylpropion. Given that the TGA have a track record of bizarre decision making that is also an unsatisfactory justification.
  • There have been no reported adverse reactions to diethylpropion dispensed by ACP. Given that ACP provides no information to patients about such matters and the doctors involved do not follow up the patients or adequately respond to their concerns that is hardly surprising.
  • He is considering legal avenues for his slanderous statements. As have others in the past.

With respect to the prescribers at the Medical WeightLoss Institute (MWI), Dr Thomas Goyer the initial doctor involved, has had unfavourable comments made about him by the Judge who heard the AMI case concerning the promotion and supply of medications for erectile dysfunction, with whom Dr Goyer was also involved. He has also had a number of conditions placed on his practice by the Medical Council of NSW &/or AHPRA.

The MWI modus operandi appears based on that of the AMI; MWI recruit vulnerable patients by placing prominent advertisements making extravagant claims; they order a large number of pathology tests of dubious relevance (at taxpayers’ expense) to give an appearance of authenticity; their doctors write ‘scripts for a cocktail of complementary and prescription drugs without seeing or examining the patients, and a closely related compounding pharmacy dispenses the drugs and fails to provide patients with the information expected by the Pharmacy Board’s Compounding Guidelines.

I suggest readers of AJP watch both Dr Goyer’s and Mr Geoff Jowett’s promotional videos, review the additional information below, and then make up their own mind about MWI and whether you, as a pharmacist, would dispenses their medication.

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Chiropractic Journal of Australia; my article up alongside dissenting opinion!

http://www.cjaonline.com.au/index.php/cja

See also article by Matthew Doyle and commentary from Phillip Ebral

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AMI begat MWI begat AMHC begat ACTIVATE

Here we go again; Geoff Jowett (now M&CO Consulting Pty Ltd) spruiks yet another weight loss scam (Activate) while the regulators (NSW HCCC) apparently do nothing.

“Get started for just a single dollar… watch the introduction videos… and start your weight loss journey… Once you prove to yourself that this is THE SOLUTION you’ve been dreaming of… Then, you will be automatically charged $67 each week for the 4 week duration of the program (full lifetime investment = only $268).”

activate“Create Your Perfect Life In The Next 30 Days…

Impossible? Not at all… In fact, one well-known Sydney medical doctor has described this as potentially the “greatest weight loss breakthrough in a generation…”

This discovery was made by Geoff Jowett, the creator of Bodytrim, Australia’s most successful weight loss program. He is also the co-founder of the Medical Weight Loss Institute (MWI) and Vision Fitness”.

See also: More on MWI; prescribing dangerous drugs banned in Australia

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More on MWI; prescribing dangerous drugs withdrawn from Australian market

Another patient has come forward who was charged $5420.00 for the MWI program and prescribed a cocktail of drugs including diethylpropion; a drug withdrawn from the Australian market because of serious adverse effects, including irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, seizures, nervousness, and reports of people becoming psychologically dependent on this medicine.

The drugs prescribed by MWI registered medical practitioner Dr Jacqui Forrester (MED0001634323) and dispensed by the compounding pharmacy, Australian Custom Pharmaceuticals, owned by registered pharmacist Daryll Knowles (PHA0001315498) are seen below.

medicationAccording to the patient, the instructions were, take one capsule from bottle 1 (Diethlpropion HCI 75mg and 60mcg Chromium Picolinate) taken every 2nd day.  Two capsules from bottle 2, and three capsules from bottle 3, taken morning and evening respectively, after food, on alternate days to Bottle 1.

In my opinion, this prescription by Dr Forrester puts her in breach of s.2.2 (2),(4),(6); 2.4 (4) and 7.2(1) of the Medical Board of Australia’s, “Code of Conduct”. In addition, in my opinion, dispensing this cocktail of drugs (including diethylpropion) puts the Australian Custom Pharmaceuticals (and registered pharmacist Daryll Knowles) in breach of s.5 and 6 of the Pharmacy Board of Australia’s, “Guidelines on compounding of medicines”.

I reiterate, the regulators should obtain an urgent Court order to take down the offending websites and Facebook material of both MWI and AMHC and place a full page retraction of claims in all the newspapers and all other media in which they have appeared. Retractions are important as they correct egregious misinformation that has previously been promulgated. Penalties should then follow. AHPRA and the MCNSW should deregister Dr Goyer, Dr Forrester and the other doctors involved, the Pharmacy Board of NSW should discipline Daryll Knowles and the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission should issue a public warning about Jowett (an unregistered health practitioner) and permanently prohibit him from providing health services.

For background, see:

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Presentation to an Informa PharmaLaw conference in Sydney; MMD Review

The 2015 Review of Medicines and Medical Devices Regulation: Government Response

See also, “Government’s long-awaited response to an independent MMD Review

“Health Minister Sussan Ley will release the government’s long-awaited response to an independent review of the regulation of medicines and medical devices this week, Fairfax Media can reveal”.

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ABC Australia+ removes Monash & Swisse logos from its own; But look at what they have done to Melbourne, Victoria and Canberra Uni!

ABC Australia+, Swisse, Melb Uni

http://www.australiaplus.com/international/style-and-wellbeing/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-medical-student-in-australia/7351616

ABC Australia+ Victoria Canberra Uni

http://www.australiaplus.com/international/style-and-wellbeing/which-fruits-are-healthier-and-in-what-form/7630314

But then, “Swisse Ultivite is a premium quality formula, containing 53 vitamins, minerals, antioxidants that has been formulated based on scientific evidence to provide nutritional support for a busy, stressful lifestyle”!

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ABC Australia+ removes Monash & Swisse logos from its own

In response to letters expressing concern about the perceived relationship between the ABC, Swisse and Monash, the Monash VC (Margaret Gardner) has  stated,

“The Monash partnership is a stand-alone partnership with ABC International and is in no way a partnership with Swisse or the Victorian Government.  Some stakeholders were initially concerned this was not the case, given that the Monash University logo appeared on the ABC International website alongside the logos of their other partners the Victorian Government and Swisse.  Following the initial announcement of partnerships, ABC International has made iterative changes to its website, including how it has acknowledged and presented its partner organisations”.

The changes made can be seen below. First of all, the Monash, Swisse and Victorian government logos have been removed from the logo of ABC Australia +, see below:

ABC Australia+ new logo

Second, placed above (and separate) there are now rotating images of the “partners”, see below:New ABC Monash logo

ABC Swisse

ABC Vic Gov

A considerable improvement!

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Australian Health expert unhappy with ABC’s Swisse deal

Monash_Swisse

This “partnership” continues to attract media interest:

On 24 August 2016, the Vice Chancellor of Monash University, Margaret Gardner, wrote:

“There is no partnership between Monash and Swisse.  Monash has a partnership with ABC International, which was put in place last year.  This partnership is to provide communications across the region about Monash research, education, staff, students and alumni. …”

This begs the question as to why the Monash logo appears with Swisse on the ABC International promotion (above) and why these words were not used in the various press releases and media stories publicising the deal. The fact remains that Monash is damned by association. Why did they not insist on due diligence regarding what additional sponsors ABC International was going to line up?

Meanwhile, Swisse responds with a full page advertisement in “The Age” newspaper.

Swisse_promo

My comment: Victorian taxes at work; exporting unnecessary supplements to countries that need genuine medicines and public health interventions (and profits to China).

On August 25, 2016 Croaky was told by Monash Management,

“To suggest that because ABC International’s other partner logos appear on their website there is an inter-relationship between them, is false and misleading”.

However, I suggest that the average consumer, on viewing the adjacent logos, would come to a different conclusion. I believe the message in the above image is clear; on the one hand it’s worth a fortune to Swisse to have their brand linked in this way; on the other the reputation of Monash University (and the ABC and the Victorian Government) is now irreversibly linked to Swisse.

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ABC International, Monash University, the Victorian State Government and Swisse Wellness announce partnership

ABC Australia Plus announces international partnerships

Monash_Swisse

I have been told that the partnership between ABC International and Monash and was struck late last year, before any involvement of Swisse Wellness Pty Ltd.

Regardless, I am disappointed that Swisse has been added to the mix. Swisse have an unenviable reputation for marketing their products, both in Australia and internationally. Their sales success reflect the large amount of money they spend on marketing hype and the use of celebrities, not on science.  Indeed, Swisse have had many upheld complaints for misusing scientific claims such as “clinically proven” and “clinically tested”. Their advertising claims have also been the subject of a number of satirical segments on the ABC Checkout program.

In 2013-4 Swisse sought a research partnership with a number of Australian universities; all but one resisted on the grounds that, while such an association might give Swisse a fig-leaf of respectability, it would not reflect well on the reputation of the university involved.

Finally, I point out that my appointment as an Adjunct Associate Professor at Monash University is unpaid, my substantial involvement with students and staff is done Pro Bono and my views regarding Swisse and their partnership with ABC International are obviously my own and do not reflect the views of Monash University.

See also, “Public health expert raises concerns about ABC partnership with supplements brand Swisse Wellness“.

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