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).

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Procedure to melt fat just a dud, suit claims (mesotherapy)

Procedure to melt fat just a dud, suit claims
Dubious credentials: A Summit County woman says her unlicensed doctor created the treatment in his unsanitary basement

By Carey Hamilton
The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune

Wanting to lose weight in her abdomen, Brooke Horan tried a relatively unknown procedure called mesotherapy, which involves injecting drugs and other substances into cellulite.

After receiving one treatment without side effects, the Summit County woman decided to allow Arnold Scott Devous, an acquaintance she believed to be a licensed Utah doctor, to practice his new technique on her.

Instead of shedding pounds, she says, she ended up with lumps and nodules on her stomach, hot flashes, heart palpitations, bruises and intense pain.

This week, she sued Devous in 3rd District Court, alleging he misrepresented his medical credentials and mixed his mesotherapy concoction in his basement.

Used in France for decades, mesotherapy is intended to shrink cellulite with injections that are typically a mix of vitamins and prescription drugs. The theory is that the injections to the mesoderm layer, where cellulite exists, improve blood flow and loosen fatty deposits.

There is no standard for the mixture or dosage, and mainstream doctors argue the therapy is unsupported by research.

The state of Utah does not regulate mesotherapy. But the Utah Department of Professional Licensing (DOPL), through its physician and nursing licensing board, is in the process of changing rules to allow only licensed physicians to perform it.

The few businesses currently offering mesotherapy in Utah include Surface Medical Spas in Park City and Layton, and Docere Clinics in Salt Lake City.

Harry Adelson, a naturopathic physician with an office in Sugar House, was trained in France by the French Society of Mesotherapy. He believes the procedure shows great success in treating pain and dissolving cellulite.

Most women have cellulite, with its distinctive dimpling caused by fat, just under the skin, that liposuction can't remove.

"Some people respond to mesotherapy very quickly; some don't," he said.

He charges between $200 and $400 per session. Generally, patients need four to 10 treatments.

Adelson will not reveal his exact concoction, protecting it as proprietary, but says it includes natural substances and medications.

Lawyer Matt Osborne, who is representing Horan, is wary of the practice.

"The scariest thing is the [Food and Drug Administration] hasn't approved mesotherapy, so nobody knows what mixing these drugs together will do," he said.

Horan was introduced to Devous by her husband, Justin Williams, who was interested in entering into business deals with him.

Williams also believed Devous was licensed to practice medicine in Utah.

"Our goal is to make a stand against this; it's not just monetary," Williams said. "I think there's some legitimate people out there who have legitimate formulations for mesotherapy, but the fact that a man was mixing it in his basement isn't right."

According to the lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Salt Lake City, Devous "unlawfully mixed controlled substances together in the basement of his home in order to make the substance used in mesotherapy. Devous had absolutely no quality control or assurances when mixing the substance, and he mixed them in an unsanitary environment."

The lawsuit alleges Horan received 70 to 100 injections, which included local anesthetic Lidocaine and other medications, beginning in March 2004.

"I've had heart issues because of this," Horan said. "I just don't feel that it's right he did this procedure."

Because Devous is not a physician licensed by DOPL, he is barred from treating people with prescription drugs in Utah, said spokesman Clark Caras.

Devous voluntarily relinquished his medical license in Wyoming in 1983 after "diverting controlled substances." The license was revoked in 1990 and was later reinstated, according to that state's records.

Alan Matarasso, a plastic surgeon in Manhattan who recently wrote about mesotherapy for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, said most plastic surgeons don't offer mesotherapy due to the unknowns.

"People are having things injected into them, and they don't know what the cocktail is or what the long-term effects are," Matarasso said.

"It's hard to endorse mesotherapy because we don't know what we're injecting or where the fat goes."

Adelson and others argue the pharmaceutical industry is unwilling to pay for studies of mesotherapy because the procedure uses a mixture of substances that likely can't be patented, and, therefore, would not be lucrative to produce.

Matarasso said that is no excuse.

"We need to make patient safety first," he said. "As plastic surgeons, we would certainly embrace something that is less invasive and can correct cellulite, but we need more information."