Citing ‘significant danger to public health,’ Utah regulators shutter pain clinic
Aug 29, 2022, 10:51 PM | Updated: Sep 2, 2022, 11:21 am
TAYLORSVILLE, Utah — Suffering from debilitating foot pain, several Utahns trusted a Taylorsville clinic to help them feel better.
Utahns like Larry Perkins, who has battled neuropathy for three decades.
Peripheral neuropathy has overtaken his life. Perkins said he can’t drive more than a few miles without losing feeling in his feet. The uncomfortable numbness nags constantly.
In April 2022, Perkins heard an ad on the radio offering an alternative treatment for neuropathy.
“I heard about this place called True Health,” Perkins recalled, “and the miracle that they have of getting rid of it, that you would never have neuropathy again, and I trusted them.”
Intrigued, he set up a consultation with the clinic, True Health SLC.
True Health is owned by Jade Malay and Shamis Tate. Both are licensed as advanced practice registered nurses in Utah. They operated clinics in Taylorsville and St. George.
Larry said True Health employees advised him that he was required to bring his wife with him to the appointment. Once there, Perkins said an employee showed him a thermal imaging scan of his lower legs and warned him his condition was deteriorating.
“I was so desperate, you know, I wanted my independence. I was afraid I would not be able to drive again, and so we did it,” Perkins said.
He signed a contract with True Health, and because they did not take insurance, paid $12,500 out-of-pocket for items listed on the treatment plan like “VCI Injections,” “Pulsewave,” a “Neurogenic Red Light Pad,” and “Nutrition Program: cleanse + Neurogenic supp.”
Perkins told KSL Investigators he went to all scheduled appointments, and completed the at-home regimen of diet, exercise, and using a “nerve plate.”
Perkins claimed he saw no improvement whatsoever by the end of the treatments.
He said he tried to connect with True Health to make maintenance appointments, but instead found the office had been closed.
Perkins believed he was scammed.
“I couldn’t believe it,” exclaimed Perkins. “It was like, how could I have fallen for that?”
“Immediate and significant danger to the public health”
Perkins wasn’t True Health’s only dissatisfied customer.
Utah’s Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing got involved after hearing from “more than a dozen” patients with stories like that of Perkins.
In a rare move for the agency, DOPL sent an undercover agent to True Health earlier this year, posing as a patient in pain. The report issued by DOPL from this investigation indicated the agent was given the same thermal scan as Perkins, and was told his outcome was “very poor, and discussed treatment options to reverse neuropathy.”
The report also states that the individuals who conducted the tests and diagnoses did not have “a Utah medical license of any kind.” One of those unlicensed employees told the agent “he would oversee [the agent’s] care and write orders for therapies and injections.”
As a result of the undercover investigation, DOPL branded True Health’s diagnostic methods as “invalid and part of a plan to defraud patients.”
“Our expert looked at the cases and how thermal imaging was used for these diagnoses of neuropathy,” explained DOPL director Mark Steinagel. “It was improperly used in these cases.”
DOPL held an emergency hearing in June, and issued an emergency order, restricting Malay and Tate’s nursing licenses.
“The emergency order allows us to take an action that stops the behavior while we’re continuing our investigation,” Steinagel said.
Improper diagnoses and unlicensed personnel were just some of the allegations against True Health.
The 18-page order detailed how patients were “prescribed ineffective treatments” and “charged exorbitant sums.”
Patients reported feeling pressured — with the thermal imaging scans and warnings that putting off treatment could eventually render them unable to walk or even lose their feet.
One such patient included in the report was shown thermal images of her feet, and then told by the employee her “feet showed severe symptoms, comparable to a stage 3.5 in cancer progression, and that the next stage could be amputation.” Fearful, she signed a contract for treatment.
DOPL’s expert indicated in the report that amputation is only necessary for neuropathy “when a wound from an unnoticed injury to the foot fails to be treated, which is very uncommon.”
The report labeled these fear tactics as a “fraudulent” treatment model, and that “most of True Health’s patients appear to be older and more susceptible to fear of these alleged health risks.”
Additionally, DOPL called True Health’s treatments “expensive,” “significantly overpriced,” and accused True Health’s owners of “deceptive, misleading, and fraudulent” financial practices.
True Health did not guarantee insurance coverage for their procedures, citing in their patient contract “insurance, including Medicare, will not pay for this non-covered service.”
Deceptive practices in other states
KSL Investigators found True Health owner Malay wasn’t a stranger to discipline from regulators.
Malay is a licensed chiropractor in Texas, where DOPL indicated she resides most of the time. Texas regulators have twice fined her for false advertising.
In 2013, the Texas Board of Chiropractic Examiners found she had advertised “satisfaction guaranteed” on a laser fat removal treatment. Malay’s patient indicated she was made to sign a statement that included the phrase “no guarantee is implied or suggested that the desired results will be achieved.”
The patient asked for a refund, “because she considered the treatments to be of no benefit.”
The Board fined Malay $1,500.
Five years later, the same board found Malay had advertised herself in a newspaper as “Dr. Jade Malay” when addressing treatment for and reversal of Type 2 Diabetes.
Because Malay did not identify herself as a chiropractor and was advertising for services “outside the scope” of a licensed chiropractor, she was fined $2,000.
Malay’s chiropractor license in Texas is still active.
In December 2021, the federal government banned Malay’s Texas practice, Apex Physical Medicine, from billing Medicare for the next 10 years, saying she submitted “false claims” to the insurance company.
Back in Utah, Steinagel said their investigation continues.
“We have visited with other states, where there may be some overlap,” he said.
Steinagel would not comment when asked if criminal charges may be coming for Malay or Tate in Utah. He stated any additional patients of True Health who feel victimized are invited to reach out to investigators.
Patients can reach DOPL at dopl.utah.gov.
True Health did not respond
KSL Investigators visited True Health’s offices in August. We found the office locked, with a sign on the door reading, “THIS OFFICE IS CLOSED PERMANENTLY!” A phone number was listed for another “location” for True Health patients.
We called the number on the sign and reached Integrated Pain Specialists. The person who answered the phone told us their owners knew Malay and are trying to help True Health’s existing patients.
We attempted to reach Malay and Tate through the company’s emails and a personal email address. Instead, we heard back from a Florida-based crisis PR firm, which stated they were “working on getting something,” presumably a response from True Health.
KSL did not receive any further response before the publishing deadline, despite multiple additional attempts at contact.
True Health’s patient contract listed a section titled “no guarantee,” stating “although we have a high success rate, every individual responds to care differently and no guarantee is made as to the result of care in any specific case…”
Customers were also asked to initial a statement saying, “I understand that a successful outcome may not be achievable, and no guarantees or assurances have been made to me regarding the outcome of the treatment or procedure.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to remove the statement that the undercover DOPL officer did not have neuropathy because DOPL’s investigation was not evaluating the end diagnosis of patients.
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