Journalism in the Public Interest

Colorado Hits Body-Imaging Chain With a Hefty Fine

Heart Check America, which marketed controversial body scans to consumers, treated patients without doctors’ orders and may have exposed patients unnecessarily to radiation, regulators say.


Heart Check America, which marketed controversial body scans to consumers, treated patients without doctors’ orders and may have exposed patients unnecessarily to radiation, regulators say. Photo by Nathan Weber for ProPublica.

Colorado regulators have fined Heart Check America and its principal operators $3.2 million, saying the body imaging company exposed patients to potentially unnecessary radiation doses and treated them without doctors’ orders.

The fine is the largest ever imposed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Radiation Program, regulators said. The enforcement action came after a June ProPublica report detailed Heart Check America’s high-pressure, direct-to-consumer methods of drumming up sales for scans that some said were probably not medically necessary.

The fine covers violations for failing to have a doctor licensed in Colorado supervise the Electron Beam Tomography Scans performed at Heart Check America centers. The company also was penalized for making images without a doctor’s order, neglecting to have policies that ensure safe use of the machine and failing to register with the state as a healing arts screening program.

David Haddad, the company’s marketing and sales director, said Heart Check had done nothing wrong and that his attorney would dispute the fine. Haddad’s mother, Sheila, purchased the chain in 2009. Haddad said that some of the compliance problems stemmed from simple errorsthe Denver center’s supervising doctor, for instance, merely let his license lapse.

Heart Check America had operated eight centers in California, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada and Washington, D.C., all of which are now closed, Haddad said. Other imaging companies are taking over the long-term contracts that Heart Check America entered into with consumers, he said.

Haddad previously told ProPublica that Heart Check America made sales presentations to tens of thousands of consumers in a two-year period, bringing in about $30 million in revenue. Colorado officials said the company’s assets will be auctioned to pay off the debts. Haddad said attempts to sell the company have faced “obstacles,” apparently alluding to regulators and media reports.

The Illinois Attorney General’s Office sued Heart Check America in June on behalf of consumers.

Colorado consumers who feel they’ve been defrauded by Heart Check America should call the Office of the Attorney General, regulators said.

Way to go! I sent CO AG info about them , they recruited my friends and me from the Taste of Colorado. I already knew they were a scam, didn’t get a dime out of me, being an RN, medically retired due to Cystic Fibrosis, at my age of all things. Plus, couldn’t open their results, but my friend could. I hope that woman gets her money back. Now, if Colorado can close that quacky chiropractor trying to treat thyroid symptoms. He has a dinner near the tech center tonight, CH 7 news is after him. Might be fun for dinner, though. He’s had years of complaints about him to the Medical board, my question is why the Colorado State Medical board is lax?

Just wondering. What is the difference between these scans and X-rays? Better still, what is the difference between airport scans and X-rays?  I haven’t seen anyone address this angle. Do frequent travellers become ill from the scans?

Rush Simonson

Aug. 9, 2011, 7:30 a.m.

I can’t speak to their specific business practices, but the diagnostic scanning industry has been destroyed by bad science and misinformation. 

Too bad.  Now the research is showing the great benefits from these types of scans.  Maybe they weren’t a scam after all.

Reduced Lung-Cancer Mortality with Low-Dose Computed   Tomographic Screening - New England Journal of Medicine. 8/4/11

A medical physics expert talks -
“The nuclear bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 provide us with the data we need. About 66 per cent of the original inhabitants of the two cities survived to 1950, since when their individual health records have been extensively studied.

By 2000, 7.9 per cent of them had died of cancer, compared with 7.5 per cent expected from rates found in similar Japanese cities over the same period (Radiation Research, vol 162, p377). This shows that the extra risk caused by radiation is very small compared with the background cancer risk, and less than the 0.6 per cent chance of an American citizen dying in a road traffic accident in 50 years.

Not surprisingly, those who received higher doses developed more cancers. But those subjected to doses less than 0.1 sievert showed no significant increase in solid cancers or leukaemias. Nor did they suffer an increase in the incidence of deformities, heart disease or pregnancy abnormalities. So there is a practical threshold of 0.1 sievert for any measurable effect due to a single acute dose.

Given what we now know, from radiotherapy to the legacy of the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it is clear that radiation safety limits are far too conservative. Evidently, our bodies have learned through evolution to repair or eliminate damaged cells, with a low failure rate. I suggest the upper limit might be reset at a lifetime total of 5 sieverts, at no more than 0.1 sievert per month. That would be a fraction of a radiotherapy dose, spread over a lifetime.

Such a revision would relax current regulations by a factor of 1000. This may seem excessively radical to some, especially those in the safety industry who have spent 60 years trying to reassure the public by regulating against all avoidable sources of radiation - which, after all, is what society asked them to do.”

Excerpted from -
Wade Allison is a nuclear and medical physicist at the University of Oxford and the author of Radiation and Reason (YPD Books). He has no ties to the nuclear industry

It’s about time!! This scan is not medically necessary. What will they do with the information….recommend diet changes, weight loss and exercise. Most Americans should be doing this irregardless of an expensive study. The money would be better spent if people received real nutrition counseling, diet implementation and activity instruction. Most people are not aware radiologists cannot order studies. These places often employ a physician assistant or nurse practitioner so they can write the orders and review results with patients. All this for thousands of dollars. Glad to see Haddad family going bankrupt.

Bet that building on Zuni street is not lead reinforced either. These people are traveling scammers, like the irish furniture and roofing repairs. They need to be run out of business and should be criminally charged and revoked citizenships.

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