Advanced Medical Institute: The “unconscionable conduct” continues

In a nation awash with health scams that pitch themselves as natural alternatives to medicine, it’s less common to find scams that position themselves as “medical”.

Even further apart are the medical tricks that prey upon vulnerable members of the public, such as Dr. Death Sartori. Or those that position themselves in a predatory manner, ready to strike when average Aussies suddenly find themselves vulnerable and in unfamiliar territory.

This definition easily applies to the one third of Aussie men aged over 50 who deal with sexual dysfunction or erectile dysfunction every year.

Enter Advanced Medical Institute whose defence against The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for “false and misleading” conduct goes back at least to 2003. The man behind the scam is Soviet Era trained doctor, Ukrainian Jack Vaisman, unregistered in Australia. He apparently also earned a PhD from the USA which enables his title as “Doctor” to get a misleading airing.

Another company he earlier owned, On Clinic led Professor David Handelsman head of andrology at Concord Hospital’s ANZAC Research Institute to remark under oath in 2009:

I’ve got to say, one of the most scarifying experiences as a medical practitioner I’ve had [was] seeing just how low quality this sort of medical care can be,” he said. ”It really shouldn’t occur in Australia in the 21st century … It goes back to a pre-thalidomide type of regulatory standards.

Professor Handelsman was referring to his mid 1990’s encounter with Vaisman. At that time Professor Handelsman was sitting on a Health Care Complaints Commission inquiry into On Clinic, called by the NSW Government. In 1996 the company pleaded guilty to charges of illegally importing individual constituents of Vaisman’s penile injection concoction. Each component was unregistered with the TGA, mixed in unregulated conditions then provided to patients with a syringe and instructions.

In March 2003 another company Vaisman (below) had acquired, Australian Momentum Health Pty Ltd, was convicted of supplying unregistered therapeutic goods. Even before AMI kicked off the last person Aussies needed dealing with male sexual dysfunction was Jack Vaisman.

Advanced Medical Institute gamble on blokes being too embarrassed to seek recompense for ineffective and outrageously priced off label use of dangerous or common and cheap medications. These are sold under long term contracts costing thousands of dollars in a practice described in 2009 as “pernicious, nasty and unethical”.

Of serious concern also is that erectile dysfunction may be an indicator of diabetes, kidney dysfunction, drug interaction, neuroses, neurological disorders, blood pressure irregularities or cardiovascular disease, prostate problems, penile conditions and other chronic conditions.

By hitting below the belt as it were with the famous “Longer Lasting Sex” advertisements, Vaisman was both targetting a symptom in older men and appealing to vanity or anxiety in younger men. A phone call was all it took.

Clearly, as the most cursory checkup – for example taking BP or physical examination – cannot take place over the phone, patient health wasn’t, and still isn’t part of the deal. This practice of “consulting”, diagnosing and prescribing medication ensuring locked in contracts over the phone at break neck, Gish Galloping speed, was the subject of a House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health and Ageing on August 25th, 2009. The litany of bogus science, cruel treatment and vile scheming is as extensive as the witnesses are impressive.

A lively exchange took place the next day between 2UE’s Mike Carlton, self appointed director of the deceptively named Australian Centre for Sexual Health, Richard Doyle and Jack Vaisman. An AMI shareholder Doyle (who also acted as Vaisman’s legal defence) is close to hilarious, suggesting everyone else is stupid for not keeping up with the latest science, including a remarkable study (not cited) showing that a phone call is superior to an actual consultation. Vaisman himself must be remembering a different inquiry.

You may grab the short MP3 here or listen below:

Ian Turpie admitted in 2006 he had lied about AMI “advanced technology” nasal spray. Vaisman had raged “Who gives a f**k?”, when AMI’s General Manager had asked if the advertisement was indeed a sham. The spray contains apomorphine, a drug used to treat Parkinson’s disease, and has been shown a dismal alternative to traditional solutions such as Viagra. AMI or it’s doctors did not advise clients of the superior alternatives.

Apomorphine is deemed ineffective by over 70% of doctors and it’s use for erectile dysfunction has been largely discontinued. In fact in cases that AMI would attract it is contraindicated. It’s mode of action works by increasing desire – not improving erectile function. In any case it is not worth thousands of dollars.

Vaisman was getting away with breaching TGA laws that render his spray a second-line therapy only if commercial alternatives are not available. Still, TGA impotency is hard to miss over the 20 or so years Vaisman has scammed Aussies. His “compounded products/prescriptions” came under TGA regulations that have exempted him from having to run any clinical trials.

Kelly Burke wrote in November 2009 following the report released by the Standing Committee on Health and Ageing:

By AMI’s figures, about 15 million nasal sprays, lozenges and sundry potions have been sold to the gullible and desperate over a decade. Yet not a single one has been subject to the administration’s quality control and safety requirements.

Vaisman has been permitted to exploit a regulation that allows doctors to prescribe individually tailored medications for patients for whom no alternative effective treatment is commercially available. […]

The vague wording of the National Policy for Technology-based Patient Consultations also needs to be tightened. […]

Close the Therapeutic Goods Administration loophole and tighten the telemedicine regulations as proposed in the report, and Australians will be able to wave goodbye to the screaming billboards, excruciating radio ads and tacky late-night television campaigns. And Jack Vaisman will be out of business.

By 2010 the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) had taken an new interest, raiding Vaisman’s offices in February. In December 2010 the same day the ACCC began legal proceedings against AMI, Vaisman placed the company into voluntary administration. The ACCC had launched proceedings against Vaisman, Advanced Medical Institute Pty Ltd, AMI Australia Holdings Pty Ltd, and two doctors.

On June 9th, 2011 The Brisbane Times reported:

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has started fresh proceedings in the Federal Court alleging that the company, famous for its billboards and radio advertisements promoting ”longer-lasting sex”, has failed to inform its customers that it is insolvent, and may not be able to provide medication for which some of them paid thousands of dollars.

AMI had continued trading since the time it went into voluntary administration. In a shifty move the business was sold to NRM Corporation Pty Ltd and NRM Trading Pty Ltd [collectively NRM], and very shortly after went into voluntary liquidation. NRM continues to conduct the AMI business.

The Australian Consumer Law (Schedule 2 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010) had Unfair Contract Terms provision added in July 2010. This has allowed the ACCC to pursue a case against AMI for alleged unconscionable conduct. This is a significant move in consumer protection.

Nasty, deplorable, pernicious, predatory and coercive were the terms used during the House of Representatives Standing Committee inquiry into Vaisman’s conduct. His abuse of clients from 17 to 87 years of age is despicable. Unconscionable Conduct sounds about right.

The ACCC reported on it’s website last September that the Federal Court had granted orders to add NRM as respondents in the ACCC case against the AMI for unconscionable conduct and granted leave for the ACCC to pursue action “against the AMI companies in liquidation”:

The ACCC alleges that AMI engaged in unconscionable conduct in breach of the Trade Practices Act 1974 and NRM is engaging in or proposing to engage in unconscionable conduct in breach of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.  The ACCC also alleges that Dr Lonergan was knowingly concerned in AMI’s conduct and Mr Vaisman being a former director of AMI and a current director of NRM was and is knowingly concerned in the conduct of those respondents.

The ACCC further alleges that NRM is in breach of the Australian Consumer Law by entering into long-term agreements for the treatment of male sexual dysfunction which contain unfair contract terms in relation to the termination of a contract.

Incredibly, so it came to pass. Under Vaisman’s shady direction NRM took “control” of AMI and continued to lure customers into unconscionable long term non efficacious rip off contracts with zero regard for consumer health.

You may have noticed the shift from Sniff and Stiff the piano playing penises on late night TV to the Genie who magically cranks up libido using a strip on the tongue. As noted by genuine experts in 2009, these advertisements are “destructive… a carefully constructed legal fiction.”

UPDATE: On April 22nd 2015 the ACCC reported that the Federal Court found Advanced Medical Institute had engaged in unconscionable conduct. The media release (MR 63/15) reads in part:

In his judgment, Justice North said “It is immoral to seek to harness the fears and anxieties of men suffering from ED [erectile dysfunction] or PE [premature ejaculation] for the purpose of selling medical treatments. To target the patient’s vulnerability in this way is to use an unfair tactic and that is a possible marker of unconscionable conduct”.

Justice North also stated “The technique of frightening men by telling them of the dire adverse consequences of not agreeing to treatment and assuring them that the treatment was effective was part of the business system of AMI and NRM. It was formulated by management and imparted in an organised fashion through scripts and training sessions.”

His Honour also found that NRM further breached the Australian Consumer Law by entering into long-term agreements for the treatment which contained unfair contract terms in relation to the termination of a contract.

The Court declared that the conduct of the respondents was unconscionable and made orders:

  • requiring that NRM compensate a number of the patients whose evidence was considered by the Court
  • permanently restraining NRM from:
    • making agreements with a patient or in respect of the supply of medications for the treatment of male sexual dysfunction unless the patient has a consultation with a qualified medical practitioner
    • making any statement about the efficacy of NRM treatments or the patient’s need for those treatments unless that statement is made by a qualified medical practitioner
    • making an agreement with a patient for the supply of medications or medical services for the treatment of male sexual dysfunction without providing a written statement of the terms of the agreement and termination rights;
    • making an agreement with a patient for the supply of medications or medical services for the treatment of male sexual dysfunction unless that agreement has a cooling off period and can be terminated by giving 14 days’ notice.
  • restraining Mr Vaisman from continuing his main role in the business of NRM which was involved in the unconscionable conduct for a period of seven years
  • requiring corrective advertising.
  • For further enquiries contact the Media Team on 1300 138 917

END UPDATE

It also emerged in a January 2011 article in The Age Business section, that a “silent partner” in this failed venture is behind Astarra Strategic Fund, which resulted in Australia’s largest superannuation theft. In fact the “partner” is a network of “dodgy brokers” headed up by John Flader the supposed master swindler of the Astarra theft.

Meanwhile the AMI swindle rolls on. The last notable action involving AMI was a directions hearing in Melbourne in October 2011. A feature of the pre NRM AMI if you will, was the inability for customers to cancel their contract until they’d tried every single treatment AMI could dream up. Whilst boasting high success and ensuring that every unsatisfied customer received a full refund, the reality was virtual theft from customer bank accounts.

The only way to stop AMI withdrawing money from an account is to have the account closed and another opened with new details.

Recently AMI wheeled out a Debt Collection department. Their job is to chase up clients who still “owed money” on the futile contracts before AMI went into voluntary liquidation. The problem here is any liabilities accrued by AMI then become those of the liquidator. Not AMI and certainly not NRM.

Despite “NRM Corporation Trading As AMI” actually not being liable for any so-called contract debts the threats to “go legal” and destroy any non-compliant customer credit ratings is standard. For 15% of the outrageous contract total NRM will allow clients off the hook. But only if clients bring up the possibility first, or happen to laugh heartily down the phone at NRM’s new take on post liquidation liability. They will not inform customers who don’t raise dissent. From the ACCC site:

NRM patients are required to provide 30 days’ written notice to NRM to terminate the contract and must also pay a number of fees including a fixed administrative fee of 15 per cent of the original contract price. The ACCC alleges that each of the fees had the effect of penalising a consumer who gave notice of termination and therefore causing a significant imbalance in the parties’ rights under the contract.

There are cases where clients – who are in fact patients – eventually consult their GP and then a urologist, cardiologist, oncologist or another specialist. Information is passed to AMI specifically stating they can do nothing to improve the condition. Indeed many “treatments” are dangerous and have exacerbated serious medical problems for months. AMI go through the motions of ensuring a refund for expenses paid. They have been known to then debit bank accounts to the tune of the total contract cost.

Of course, there is no written contract that clients sign outlining any of these eventualities. The famed refunds are a scam from day one because they do not exist. There simply is no document wherein lies any customer contract. Clients should remember this in the event of AMI Debt Collectors calling to terrify. You are thus still waiting on the official contract.

If clients have been clever enough to realise the scam and ditch their bank account AMI Debt collection ring to intimidate, threaten and bully. To “go legal” as they say. Exactly what ageing, ill and often pension dependent patients need.

At this point getting consumer and legal advice, alerting and perhaps lodging a complaint with the ACCC and making some well advised choices about taking that 15% option is in order. After you’re certain that they can effect your credit rating. Remember that AMI are engaged in unconscionable conduct, and NRM intentionally set out to engage in unconscionable conduct.

There is no evidence the so-called Debt Collection isn’t another scam, and it alone is unconscionable conduct by extension. The ACCC will confirm this. As I note above, any debt AMI accrued pre June 2011 is not legally theirs to recover. With luck they will soon be shut down and prosecuted. If contacted clients should not hesitate to summarise this ACCC entry.

Medications sold via their contracts include SSRI’s like fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Aropax or Paxil), escitalopram (Lexapro), sertraline (Zoloft) etc. These were introduced over the late 1970’s – 1980’s with Lexapro introduced some years later.

AMI also favour old style tricyclic antidepressants such as Clonipramine. This cutting edge technology has been around since the 1950’s with clonipramine added to common tricyclic antidepressants in the 1960’s. The pain killer Tramadol is another.

Their super advanced Path Breaking Research and Development also includes, as mentioned, the Parkinson’s drug apomorphine via lozenge, nasal spray or tongue strip. Apomorphine has been around since the 1940’s.

Why these drugs? SSRI’s and tricyclic antidepressants have a side effect in prolonging time to ejaculation. This effect may persist or may be prove to be transient. Remembering the conditions they are prescribed for, and the side effects they already carry I’ll leave you to consider the value of such off-label use.

The shocking aspect here is rather than pay $250.00 per month and be locked in for two years patients could consult their GP and pay around AU $20.00 per month. For those on a pension or any benefit it’s $5.80 per month. No contracts, no threats and no gambling with side effects.

It gets worse. Men have been scammed into a $3,000 contract and bullied into payment long after the penny dropped, only to report they were already on an SSRI reaping any potential benefit of “lasting longer”. In these cases they need not have spent a cent.

A major drawback with SSRI and tricyclic medications is the interaction with some migraine specific medications or even pain killers such as Tramadol. Serotonin Syndrome can be a serious and potentially life threatening reaction to using two or more of these drugs.

A major cause of premature ejaculation is fast neurological response time in pelvic muscles. Guys can even save that $20.00 per month and learn pelvic floor exercises known as Kegel Exercises. Searching for those key words will provide millions of hits. In cases of erectile dysfunction consult your GP to be sure it’s not a more serious problem.

In conclusion do keep in mind that Advanced Medical Institute is neither “advanced” or an “institute”. It’s a scam run by professional parasitic predators who pressure vulnerable, ill and everyday Australian men out of their money. They can offer nothing to improve sexual health – quite the opposite.

In researching for this post I was appalled, infuriated and disgusted by the tactics creatures such as Vaisman use to scheme struggling Aussies who conduct themselves with dignity, strength and poise. To be unwell is one thing, to make a less than ideal decision and be scammed is another. Yet to navigate the resultant quandary with optimism and humour takes a trait I hope I have, somewhere deep inside.

One hopes the ACCC get to use the unconscionable conduct laws with gusto.

  • ACCC resources. Keywords – “Advanced Medical Institute”

http://www.accc.gov.au/search/accc-funnelback/Advanced%20Medical%20Institute

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