The widow of a man who died of cardiac arrest in 2016 is suing 25 Again, a chain of hormone clinics with eight locations in Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana, accusing the company of providing her late husband with negligent medical treatment, the Courier Journal reports.
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In a lawsuit filed in Jefferson Circuit Court, the plaintiff claims that Dr. Elizabeth Bates, a hormone therapy doctor at the clinic's Louisville location, of repeatedly administering testosterone supplements to her husband, despite his hormone levels being perfectly normal.
Alongside a similar complaint filed with Kentucky's medical practice review panel, the lawsuit alleges that providing testosterone to people with healthy levels of the hormone goes beyond the accepted standards of medical practice.
Dr. Elizabeth Bates is no longer allowed to practice medicine. In June, when Bates was still the medical director at 25 Again, the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure revoked her license after having found numerous violations of acceptable medical standards at her practice.
In a hearing to determine Bate's licensure status, Sara Farmer, attorney for the medical licensure board, said that the hormone treatments followed by the doctor are not taught in medical schools or recognized as a legitimate specialty. "If this medicine were the cure for all ills as it has been presented," Farmer said, "every physician in the country would use it."
Hormone therapies like those offered at 25 Again are contentious. It is not accepted in the wider medical industry. Bates' "hormone optimization therapy" involves giving thyroid hormones and testosterone to healthy people with normal levels to make them feel better. Critics say the practice can be extremely dangerous.
Advocates of hormone therapy, on the other hand, say that the traditional medical community is too focused on treating disease, while their own practices are intended to increase overall "wellness."
In her medical licensure hearing, the doctor was accused of prescribing hormones to patients without first performing adequate tests; providing thyroid hormones for weight loss, which many doctors discourage due to risks; and administering thyroxine and testosterone to patients who already had hormone levels within a healthy range. The medical licensing board did not claim that any of Bates' patients had been harmed.
Bates has now left 25 Again. She has since opened her own private internal medicine practice.
Stories of tragedy, however, are beginning to emerge. This is not the first lawsuit to be filed against 25 Again, a company that promises through hormone therapy to help "members" "look younger, become healthier and feel 25 again."
In Owensboro, Kentucky, the widows of two men who died of heart attacks after being prescribed testosterone pellets filed suit against the 25 Again nurse practitioner who treated their husbands. One of the cases was settled for a confidential amount. The other remains pending.
In August, 11 nurse practitioners abandoned the medical clinic, fearing that they would lose their medical licenses. The clinic is still in operation. When questioned about the recent lawsuit, owner Ted Ennenbach declined to comment, citing privacy concerns.
In the new case, the plaintiff widow says that her husband went to 25 Again in November 2015, seeking treatment for weight gain and hoping to increase his energy level. One month later, he'd signed up for a membership with the clinic. Dr. Elizabeth Bates told the man that his levels of testosterone and thyroxine were low.
In reality, these were lies, the complaint alleges, asserting that the "the lab results for those hormones were well within the normal range." The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises that testosterone should only be prescribed after two blood tests have confirmed that a patient's levels are deficient.
Even so, the man was administered testosterone injections. Bates also gave the plaintiff's husband syringes of the hormone to administer at home. The man's testosterone levels ultimately increased to three-times the normal level.
The complaint also alleges that Dr. Bates administered the man thyroid hormones to treat his obesity. The plaintiff claims that such treatment is "unjustified" by current medical evidence "and has been shown to be ineffective."
The plaintiff claims that Bates continued to administer testosterone throughout March, May and August of 2016, despite repeated tests demonstrating that her husband's testosterone levels were normal and healthy.
Her husband died on September 29, 2016 of a heart attack. The lawsuit says this was the direct result of the excessive administration of hormones. The lawsuit alleges negligence, gross negligence, failure to obtain informed consent and false representations.
The suit echoes many of the claims contained in about 7,000 lawsuits filed against pharmaceutical manufacturer AbbVie, the company behind testosterone replacement therapy AndroGel.
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