“These drugs are basically poison…
“And you use them in someone who has cancer because they will kill the cancer cells. But when you do that you know that there are going to be side effects, and often very, very severe side effects,” said Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News Chief Health and Medical Officer.
That didn’t bother at least one doctor. . .
In a terrifying case that recently came to light, Dr. Farid Fata, an oncologist with a large medical practice extending across seven Michigan cities, pled guilty to organizing one of the largest medical frauds in history.
He intentionally misdiagnosed more than 550 people so he could personally profit by treating them for cancer they did not have — bilking the system out of $34 million and killing or maiming his victims for life.
It’s a scary story, and it could happen to you. . .
“You can just about
Believe it or not, that’s what a Midwestern cancer doctor with 20 years of experience told me in an exclusive interview. And she proved it again and again!
She told me the remarkable secret of how she cured herself of so-called “terminal” cancer – then went on to cure many other cancer patients (I interviewed some of them, too!)
It’s an inspiration to anyone with cancer who’s been told there’s no hope. But it’s also more: it’s a specific roadmap everyone needs to have. Click here for the full story.
Dr. Fata used the power and authority of his position to treat perfectly healthy patients for cancer, and to over-treat many patients who did have cancer.
In addition, he lied to some about what type of cancer they had, telling them they had a kind of cancer that required more expensive treatments. Fata lied to others about their chances of survival, in order to convince them to agree to more treatments.
According to Dr. Dan Longo, one of the drugs Dr. Fata employed, Rituximab, can weaken the immune system if it’s overused.1
To give you an idea of how outrageous this doctor’s conduct was, a patient with severe lymphoma is normally administered Rituximab eight times. In Dr. Fata’s practice, the drug was administered many more times than normal… one patient received 94 doses.
The current estimation is that he gave patients over 9,000 unnecessary injections and infusions, and at least 2,000 unnecessary chemotherapy sessions.
While running the scam from 2009 to 2014, he conned Medicare and insurance companies out of millions, billing them for $34.7 million and simultaneously forcing many patients into financial ruin.
At present, at least 553 victims have been identified. The federal court trying the case heard accounts from about 22 victims, with statements read by family members of dead patients.
So how did it all come to light?
A broken leg saved this woman’s health
In 2012, Dr. Soe Maunglay started working for Fata’s medical practice. Soon after, he began doubting whether some of the patients being treated even had cancer, because he saw no evidence of it. Increasingly frustrated, he eventually tendered his resignation for August 2013.
That July, he ran into one of Dr. Fata’s patients while doing his rounds. She had broken her leg, and had received her first chemo session earlier that day. After examining her chart, he saw no evidence of cancer, and suggested she get a second opinion and not return to Dr. Fata.
With evidence in hand, he went to George Karadsheh, the practice manager, who in turn went to the FBI. The rest, as they say, is history.
A descent from respected professional
To scam artist
Responding to the evidence against Dr. Fata, Mr. Karadsheh said, “It was so difficult to believe. Here is a physician whose background is second to none in Michigan . . . I had never had a patient complain that there was a problem with a reaction to a drug or whether it was necessary.”2
Dr. Fata’s vast, sprawling practice treated thousands of patients and worked with esteemed organizations. His scam shocked those who knew and worked with him.
Those who survived his treatments are lucky to be alive today. But they’ll still suffer the consequences for the rest of their lives. Some of Dr. Fata’s victims now suffer chronic pain, weakness, and permanent organ damage, not to mention financial ruin.
One man lost both his legs. Some will be on medications for the rest of their lives, trying to mitigate the damage Fata did. Others had their organs fried by radiation. One man lost nearly all his teeth.
Did Fata get what he deserved?
In a federal court, Dr. Fata pled either guilty or no-contest to 13 counts of health care fraud, two counts of money laundering, and one count of conspiring to pay and receive kickbacks.
The U.S. Attorney’s office called Dr. Fata “the most egregious fraudster in the history of the country.”
Prosecutors sought a 175-year sentence, while the felon’s attorneys advocated a sentence of 25 years (the minimum required). In the end, U.S. District Judge Paul Borman sentenced him to 45 years in prison.
Currently 50 years old and dealing with health issues of his own, Dr. Fata will likely be in prison for the rest of his life, though his sentence could be shortened for good behavior.
While the restitution hearing is still to come, he has already agreed to hand over $17.6 million.
He seemed sorry for his actions, stating, “I do not know how I can heal the wound. I do not know how to express the sorrow and the shame . . . The quest for power is self-destructive. They came to me seeking compassion and care. I failed. Yes, I failed.”3
Of course, that doesn’t bring people back from death, or cure the physical, emotional, and financial scars of his victims.
How to protect yourself from such a fraud
According to Newsweek, Fata’s actions are symptomatic of issues that have been present within the medical community for years. The average American, when he steps through the door of a doctor’s office, especially an oncologist’s, tends to cast aside his powers of skepticism and independent thought.4
Most people implicitly believe that doctors not only have their best interests in mind, but also always know what’s best. And when the diagnosis is cancer, fear and panic impair their judgment even more.
Farid Fata took advantage of his patients’ trust and fear. He told them they had a 70% chance of remission if they committed to his plan, but if they held off on treatments or went elsewhere, he wouldn’t be able to help them.
He also denied them full access to their medical files, so they couldn’t get a second opinion. It shouldn’t have to be said, but this is a MAJOR red flag. Fire any doctor who tells you this, and don’t look back.
In 2010, Angela Swantek, an oncology nurse with years of experience, interviewed for a job at Dr. Fata’s practice and was horrified at what she saw. She asked Michigan’s Bureau of Health Professions to investigate. Though they claim there was insufficient evidence to take any action, the actual results aren’t available due to privacy laws.
We obviously need better ways of holding medical professionals accountable, especially considering the convoluted relationships between doctors, pharmacists, insurance companies, and the government.
In light of terrifying stories like this one, it’s tempting to swear off the entire medical profession. But that might be a bit extreme.
But there are things you can do…
1. One of the most important of those things is to get a second opinion on any serious diagnosis. Sure, it’s a hassle and an expense at a fearful time. But this story proves it could be worth it. Even if a doctor isn’t trying to con you to fatten his wallet, he could just plain be wrong.
2. It’s a bad sign if your doctor refuses to let you see your charts and medical records. Know your rights…
By law, a patient is entitled access to his or her complete medical records. But there are exceptions. . .
A provider can withhold your medical information if he “reasonably” determines that the information would be detrimental to your physical or mental health or would likely cause you to harm yourself or someone else.
In such a case, the doctor can supply it to an appropriate third party or another provider who can release it to you. (Another good reason to get a second opinion.)
Doctors are allowed to charge a small fee per page for the records, but, if you are unable to pay, they cannot deny you access to your records. You may have to acquire an affidavit stating your inability to pay.
3. In a perfect world, you can implicitly trust your doctor. But it is your body, your health, your life. Ask questions. Verify their recommendations by doing your own research.
4. Few people know this, but if your cancer is diagnosed as early stage, you’ve got lots of time — weeks — to think about what your next steps should be, get a second opinion, read publications like this one. You don’t have to go into surgery or chemotherapy next week or even in a couple of weeks (or possibly at all).
This is particularly true of some of the most common cancers, like prostate and breast cancer. A melanoma or pancreatic cancer diagnosis might spur me to move a bit faster, but you still have at least a week to think and learn more. Cancer doesn’t grow that fast. (No harm in having a melanoma removed at once — it’s generally a small procedure. It’s the chemo you want to avoid.)
It’s all too common for oncologists to pressure patients into treatment at once. And it’s likewise common for them to verbally attack a patient, even fly into a rage, if the patient wants to wait and think. We’ve collected stories of cancer doctors following their patients out the door and into the parking lot, yelling at them. Such a doctor should be fired.
5. If you are alone with the doctor when you are diagnosed, absolutely do not consent to anything. Leave the doctor’s office, go home, and consult with your loved ones. And get a second opinion. At any future doctor visits, you should be accompanied by a “cancer advocate” – a friend or relative who will take your side and be better able to keep a cool head while you’re consumed with fear.
6. If your cancer is late stage, God forbid, then be aware that chemotherapy seldom extends life. The medical industry has tried its best to make sure no studies of this are available, but the evidence that IS available strongly indicates that late stage cancer patients who refuse chemotherapy live longer than those who accept it.
We do have plenty of studies conducted by drug companies to win FDA approval for chemo drugs. These usually show the whiz-bang new drugs add mere weeks, or a month or two, to the patient’s life compared to old drugs. And that’s if you believe the studies – a whole ‘nother story. So if you’ve got late-stage cancer and your doctor says, “There’s a new drug we could try. . .” Tsk, tsk.
And it should go without saying that there’s a quality of life issue. Chemotherapy is a miserable ordeal to endure — so bad that many patients decide they’d rather die than go through another round. Again I’m addressing this to late-stage patients – do you really want to go through that for the hope — probably false – that you’ll last a few more weeks or months?
Most or possibly ALL oncologists must surely know that one more round of chemo does almost nothing for a late-stage cancer patient, but it does line the doctor’s pocket.
7. Be aware that independent oncologists — as opposed to those on a hospital staff — are purchasing the chemo drugs at a deep discount and selling them to you at a huge markup. That’s where they derive most of their income.
Oncologists tend to push (and that seems to be the right word) the newest and latest cancer drugs – which are also the most expensive. Most of the time these drugs are no improvement over cancer drugs that have been around for years or even decades.
If you decide to accept chemotherapy, demand to know what drugs the medical establishment deems acceptable for your condition and whether the Mercedes is really any better than the Corolla.
8. Another thing many people don’t know is that you can mix and match conventional and alternative treatments. It often makes sense to go ahead and have surgery, cut out as much of the cancer as possible, then follow it with alternative treatments instead of the chemotherapy or radiation your doctor will most likely recommend. There are also a great many herbs and supplements that can be used with chemotherapy and that produce better results than chemo alone. This is where it pays to spend a couple of weeks reading instead of leaping for the first thing your doctor recommends. The time can also be spent looking for a doctor who will support your decisions instead of trying to dictate to you.
And, finally. . .
In contrast to these questionable and outright crooked practices of conventional medicine, you have a vast array of cancer alternatives that can extend life for years (instead of weeks) and even send some patients into total remission. Including late-stage patients. And instead of being sick and miserable, the patients are more comfortable and happy.
There is no guarantee that any given alternative protocol will work for any given patient. Sometimes the alternatives are successful, sometimes not. But for late-stage patients, in my opinion it’s no contest between conventional and alternative treatments..
For early stage patients, the decision is more complicated because the conventional treatments are sometimes successful. When I had early stage (VERY early stage) prostate cancer, I elected alternative treatments and got rid of it completely. It’s a type of cancer where I knew I had plenty of time, and I employed it well.