Michael J. Teplitsky, M.D. (1926– ) practices what he calls complementary and alternative medicine in Brooklyn, New York. He also hosts a radio show in New York City and is “medical director” and a part-owner of Physicians Choice, Inc., a Florida-based company that sells herbal and dietary supplement products. New York State’s licensing authorities disciplined him in 1995 for sexual misconduct in 2003 for negligence, incompetence, ordering unwarranted treatment, and failure to maintain adequate records. In 2005, he signed a consent agreement to settle charges of false advertising brought by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
The board’s 1995 action was based on a criminal conviction for “sexual abuse in the third degree,” a class B misdemeanor for which Teplitsky was fined $500 and ordered to stay completely away from the alleged victim. The board placed him on three years’ probation and ordered him to have counseling with a psychiatrist or other counselor. According the the Board’s records, the conviction resulted from an incident in which he grabbed a patient’s breasts without her permission . The board concluded that the incident was a “single act” and did not warrant an additional penalty.
In the 2003 case, the board concluded that he had negligently and incompetently treated eight patients. In all eight cases, the board concluded that he had filed to maintain adequate records and to obtain and document informed consent before treating them with human growth hormone. In seven of the cases, the board concluded that he had ordered unnecessary tests or repeated tests despite normal values on the initial studies. The board’s order noted:
The Hearing Committee was very concerned about Respondent’s non-caring, cavalier attitude towards his patients. This attitude was very apparent to the Committee throughout Respondent’s testimony. Further, Respondent’s prior discipline for sexual abuse of a patient showed a lack of respect and concern for his patient’s welfare. In that regard, the Committee considered the prior discipline to be an aggravating factor.
Respondent’s medical records do not reveal a coherent thought process behind his treatment decisions. Patients come in, often seeking specific therapies. He orders panels of laboratory tests, without regard for the actual needs of the individual patients. This results in absurd situations, such as obtaining PSA [prostate-specific antigen] levels for female patients. When the laboratory tests came in, Respondent frequently failed to follow up on the results .
In the FTC case, in 2005, Teplitsky and a business partner settled FTC charges by agreeing to pay up to $20 million in consumer redress—the largest monetary judgment ever obtained in an FTC health fraud case [3-5]. In addition to Teplitsky, the FTC complaint named Great American Products, Inc. (GAP) and Physician’s Choice, Inc. (PCI), both of Destim, Florida; and Stephan Karian. Karian is an officer of both corporations. Teplitsky, who is described as PCI’s medical director, formulated PCI’s product line and appears in its advertising. The FTC documents also say he owns half of PCI. In matters related to product marketing, Teplitsky uses the name “Teplisky.”
According to the FTC, the defendants’ advertising deceptively claimed that the dietary supplements Ultimate HGH and Super HGH Booster and homeopathic sublingual sprays called Master HGH and Super HGH will (a) significantly increase growth hormone levels, (b) provide the benefits purportedly shown in various studies involving prescription-only HGH injections, (c) reduce fat, cholesterol, and blood pressure (d) increase muscle mass, and (e) improved cognitive, immune, and sexual function. The FTC’s complaint also challenged deceptive claims that Fat Blaster and Super Carbo Blocker cause weight loss by suppressing appetite, reducing the conversion of carbohydrates to fats, and enhancing metabolism; and that Ultimate Wild Oregano Oil and Super Wild Oregano Oil prevent colds and flu and, when taken orally, treat and relieve bacterial and viral infections and their symptoms. The complaint further alleged that defendants falsely represented that radio and television infomercials for their products were independent shows when, in fact, they were paid-for commercials. In addition, the defendants violated the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) by failing to obtain informed consent to charge consumers’ credit cards for additional products after a first telemarketing sale was completed. The alleged HGH enhancers typically sold for $100 for a three-month supply, with total sales exceeding $70 million.
Under the settlement agreement:
- Future claims for any dietary supplement, food, or drug, or any service purporting to provide health-related benefits, must be true, non-misleading, and substantiated.
- The defendants are prohibited from using a format which could mislead the consumers into thinking that an infomercial is an ordinary television program.
- The defendants must pay $6.5 million immediately and set up a redress program that would provide up to $13.5 million to eligible consumers who request a refund.
- Avalanche clauses provide for a total potential liability of $80 million—an amount representing total product sales—if it is discovered that the defendants misrepresented their financial status .
In 2004, the Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program asked PCI to substantiate core claims in its infomercial for Super Prostate Formula, but the company had declined to do so . Ironically, despite the fact that New York State disciplined Teplitsky for inappropriately prescribing HGH, several Web sites that market PCI’s Super HGH still claim that Teplitsky “has not only developed all of the nutritional formulas on this site, but he and his patients have been using them for years with astounding results!”
- Administrative Review Board. Decision and order. In the matter of Michael Jacob Teplitsky, M.D., ARB No. 94-262, March 27, 1995.
- New York State Board for Professional Medical Misconduct. Determination and order. In the matter of Michael J. Teplitsky, M.D., BMPC# 03-269. Oct 3, 2003.
- FTC targets bogus anti-aging claims for pills and sprays promising human growth hormone benefits. FTC news release, June 9, 2005.
- Complaint for permanent injunction And other equitable relief. FTC v. Great American Products et al. United States District Court, Northern District of Florida, Civil Action No. 3:05-CV-00170-RV-MD., Filed May 10, 2005.
- Stipulated final order for permanent injunction and settlement of claims for monetary relief as to Great American Products, Inc., Physician’s Choice, Inc., Stephan Karian, and Michael Teplitsky, M.D. FTC v. Great American Products et al. United States District Court, Northern District of Florida, Civil Action No. 3:05-CV-00170-RV-MD. Filed May 20, 2005.
- Physician’s Choice, Inc. Super Prostate Formula Dietary Supplement. Report of inquiry by Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program, 2004.
This page was posted on June 13, 2005.