There have been quite a few infomercials running in the media lately for various spinal decompression machines with trade names such as “VAX-D” … “IDD” … “DRX-9000” … just to name a few.
Naturally, this has led to several discussions in the Rebuilder’s Forum asking the obvious question, “Do they actually work?”
Virginia Hennessey, a reporter for the Monterey Herald, recently filed a report that may just shed a little light on that question for us:
Bogus back claims draw penalties
Chiropractors face fines for advertising treatment with questionable spinal-traction device
By VIRGINIA HENNESSEY
Herald Salinas Bureau
Local prosecutors have won injunctions and civil penalties against two Central Coast chiropractors and are asking anyone who was treated with a questionable spinal-traction device to notify their office.
Prosecutor John Hubanks said the chiropractors, Charles Strong and Tony Hoang, anonymously advertised in local newspapers offering a free report to consumers regarding the DRX-9000, an “FDA approved medical technology” that offered an “86 percent success rate for treating debilitating back pain without surgery.”
From the beginning, I’ve been skeptical of these decompression clinics and the exaggerated claims they make. So I was not surprised when the one in Springfield quietly disappeared awhile back.
And I’m also not the least bit surprised to learn that the authorities are now starting to crack down on these outfits.
The deceptive ads claimed the DRX-9000 was an effective treatment for multiple herniated disks and sciatica and was based on “an accidental NASA discovery” that outer space quickly and easily solved most back pain. In fact, Hubanks said, NASA has determined space travel has a detrimental impact on the spine.
Hubanks said the District Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit demanded substantiation of the claims from the chiropractors and the device’s distributor, Axiom Worldwide Inc., but has received none. He said a multi-agency task force is investigating avenues of possible civil and criminal actions against the company.
Hennessey goes on to write:
Strong, a Watsonville chiropractor, was fined $25,000 for violating false-advertising laws.
Hoang of Monterey was also fined $25,000, but $17,000 of his fine was suspended, Hubanks said, because of his cooperation with prosecutors.
One thing I find particularly disturbing is that the people purchasing these machines and launching these false advertising campaigns don’t even bother finding out if there is any truth to the claims before they start selling the program to the unsuspecting public.
“He (Dr. Huang) worked with us immediately when he realized the advertising couldn’t be substantiated,” said Hubanks. “My understanding is a media kit was provided at the time of sale of these devices.”
Boggles the mind doesn’t it?
I mean this guy waited until he had egg on his face before finally evaluating the product he was treating people with.
Hubanks (the prosecuting attorney) said he was particularly worried about the elderly and those without health insurance paying exorbitant fees for the treatment, which may aggravate their painful conditions.
Time will tell if we are going to be seeing more of these clinics facing prosecution for false advertising. It’s pretty clear from this article that they do not live up to the hype.
I believe it would be a mistake to read too much into this story.
The mere fact that these clinics — and the manufacturer of these machines — appear to be intentionally misleading the public should not in anyway be construed to imply that the theory and technology behind decompression is invalid.
Traction and decompression techniques have been used for years to treat back pain and research in this area is ongoing. So before you make up your mind, be sure to read what our forum members are saying about the DRX here: DRX-9000 Spinal Decompression Unit.
Last Updated: June 7, 2007
Two chiropractors — Eric and Christopher Topel of Atlanta, Georgia – have been sentenced in United States District Court on charges of health care fraud.
The two brothers were convicted of these charges in February, 2006 and both were sentenced on June 2nd, 2006 to 2 years, 10 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release, during which they each will be required to perform 350 hours of community service.
A very light sentence considering that they could have received as much as 10 years in prison for the offense.
According to a press release issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation: From approximately late 2003 into 2005, at various back pain clinics within the state of Georgia, the two chiropractors engaged in insurance fraud scams that together attempted to bilk Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia out of almost $2 Million.
The scheme involved false billing for a non-surgical back pain procedure known as Veterbral Axial Decompression or “VAX-D.”
Blue Cross considers VAX-D to be investigational and not medically necessary, and has made it clear to health care providers that it does not cover the procedure. However, the Topels devised a way to receive reimbursement from Blue Cross for this non-covered procedure anyway.
Their plan involved misleading Blue Cross into believing they were performing other services. Or, to but it bluntly, they lied and submitted billing for services that they did not perform… but that the insurance provider would cover.
Specifically, the Topels used an inapplicable medical billing code on their insurance claims that pertained only to surgical procedures, rather than the medical billing code for VAX-D.
The pair also went so far as to instruct their employees not to call the procedure “VAX-D” when speaking to Blue Cross representatives, and to conceal references to “VAX-D” in the patient files.
In other words, they falsified medical records.
As part of the scheme, BPI of Columbus billed Blue Cross for over $630,000, and BPI of Albany billed Blue Cross for over $860,000, all for VAX-D. During the same time period, Christopher Topel’s Atlanta-based clinics also billed Blue Cross for over $800,000 for VAX-D procedures.
Among the chiropractic clinics involved were:
- The Back Pain Institute of Albany, Georgia (“BPI of Albany”)
- The Back Pain Institute of Columbus, Georgia (“BPI of Columbus”)
- As well as several other back pain clinics in the metropolitan Atlanta area.
After the sentencing, United States Attorney David E. Nahmias made the following statement:
“The Topels were health care providers who, between the two of them, cheated Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia out of over $2 million. By doing so, the Topels sought to enrich themselves at the expense of ordinary Americans who pay Blue Cross premiums. Those who would engage in similar schemes should take notice of the consequences of engaging in fraudulent billing practices that contribute to escalating health care costs for all.”
I believe a round of applause goes to the special agents of the FBI who investigated this case, the prosecuting attorneys (Assistant United States Attorneys Justin Anand and Teresa D. Hoyt) United States Attorney David E. Nahmias and United States District Judge William S. Duffey, Jr. for all their hard work in putting the bad guys where they belong.