Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Palm Beach Gardens chiropractor in botulism case is hit with fine

Palm Beach Gardens chiropractor in botulism case is hit with fine

By Bob LaMendola
Health Writer
Posted May 14 2005

A chiropractor who owned the clinic where four people were poisoned by anti-wrinkle shots last November was fined but will get his license back and can again see patients as of Tuesday, a state disciplinary board decided Friday.

Thomas P. Toia of Palm Beach Gardens hired questionable doctors, barely supervised them and offered little help when the four got sick in November, but he was not the main one to blame for the botulism poisoning, the Florida Board of Chiropractic Medicine ruled.

The board ordered Toia to be on supervised probation for three years and fined him $10,000 plus $12,000 in costs, but reinstated his license, which was suspended after the poisonings.

"[The board is] going to show unusual mercy," said board member Gene Jenkins Jr., a chiropractor. "It's a miracle other people in the public didn't have something happen."

At Toia's now-closed Advanced Integrated Medical Center in Oakland Park, physician Bach McComb injected himself, his girlfriend and two friends from Palm Beach Gardens with a super-strength, unapproved research toxin he bought as a cheap alternative to federally approved Botox, federal officials say. McComb did not properly dilute the toxin, paralyzing the four for months, officials charged.

Toia allowed McComb to practice medicine, knowing his license was suspended at the time for overprescribing painkillers, state officials said. Toia was unaware that McComb and Toia's son ordered the raw toxin and that McComb gave the shots, the state said.

Two days afterward, McComb called Toia to say he and girlfriend Alma "AJ" Hall were having a bad reaction, state officials said. He learned the other two patients, chiropractor Eric Kaplan and wife, Bonnie, also were sick, so he and his son drove to their house. He told the board he could not persuade them to go to an emergency room.

Toia mixed up a vitamin and mineral injection for the Kaplans, officials said. Toia knew chiropractors cannot give injections, so he let his son, who is not licensed, give the shots, board members said. The shots did no good.

"You just sat there and watched this. They got critically ill and you could have done something," board member Linda Benear said, as the board issued its ruling at a hearing Friday.

"If there was ever a case where the public deserved to be protected from a doctor, this was it," Jenkins said. "You dropped the ball, in my opinion."

"I'll own up to that," Toia said.

Toia told the board he did his best to supervise the clinic. He knew McComb had been suspended when he bought the clinic, but said he kept him there on the word of a doctor friend who backed McComb. He checked but did not learn of disciplinary problems in the pasts of two other doctors he hired.

"I thought I asked the right people and did the right things," Toia said. He declined to elaborate after the hearing, saying he and McComb are being sued by the Kaplans and Hall.

Toia said Kaplan knew the clinic well. He hired Kaplan as a consultant to advise him on buying the clinic and operating it with McComb.

McComb had previously done an endorsement for Kaplan's consulting business in a trade-journal ad, he said.

McComb faces criminal charges of improperly giving unapproved drugs. He and the Kaplans are recovering at home, while Hall is still partially paralyzed at a rehabilitation facility in New Jersey.

Bob LaMendola can be reached at or 954-356-4526.