A Superior Court judge Tuesday found that an Orange County blood-testing laboratory was practicing medicine without a license and issued a preliminary injunction to stop it from conducting controversial blood tests and advertising the tests to solicit business.
Judge John J. Ryan said advertising by Bio-Health Centers and its parent companies, Tannare International Inc. and BHC Licensing Corp., included the practice of medicine and did not restrict itself to simply giving information on the role of food and diets in health.
The ads claimed that the blood testing, known as cytotoxic testing, can diagnose allergic reactions to foods and lead to diets that can cure headaches, sinus problems, heartburn and a host of other common illnesses.
Stopped in New York
Bio-Health already has been stopped from soliciting business in New York state. Officials there claimed in March that the mail-order clinic could not distinguish a cow's blood sample from a human's.
According to a civil lawsuit filed in December by the California Board of Medical Quality Assurance, Bio-Health customers pay $350 to $450 for such testing. The suit seeks $1 million in civil penalties.
Bio-Health had advertised in 11 other states beside California and New York, the state board's suit said.
Ryan's order, valid until a trial or unless overturned on appeal, makes permanent a May 8 temporary restraining order that, according to Bio-Health lawyer Scott W. Hanssler, essentially closed down the business. The order prohibits psychiatrist Roger Palmieri from acting as Bio-Health medical director and forbids the company to conduct or advertise the blood tests.
A Bio-Health clinic in Huntington Beach remains open, but there is little to do, Hanssler said. Its Costa Mesa clinic has been closed, and the companies and David Diem, Bio-Health's general manager, have filed bankruptcy petitions, the lawyer said.
'Only Nutritional Advice'
"The judge did not agree with us that we were only giving nutritional advice," Bio-Health lawyer Hanssler said. "A 1980 statute said the state Medical Practices Act does not apply to people who practice nutrition. But there has been no court interpretation on what that means--what is nutrition, what isn't. Where do you draw the line in saying people can feel better by following a better diet?"
Deputy Atty. Gen. Barry D. Ladendorf, representing the state board, indicated that wherever that line was drawn, Bio-Health went over it. "Their ads clearly stated they could cure all sorts of ailments," he said.
Hanssler said Diem agreed with him in a telephone conversation Tuesday to appeal Ryan's order.
Diem had claimed earlier that the dispute over the blood analysis is just part of a larger debate between proponents of "traditional medicine and nutritional health treatment."