Australian doctor sanctioned for pushing Usana onto patients
The Medical Board of Australia has sanctioned a former Queensland doctor for pushing Usana onto her patients.
A Tribunal has ruled Dr. Valerie Cole’s constituted “unprofessional conduct”.
As reported by the Australian Journal of Pharmacy, Dr. Cole was visited by a patient who complained of persistent fatigue back in 2010.
During that consultation, Dr Cole recommended products from USANA Health Services.
She invited the patient and the patient’s husband to her home to meet with her and her own husband, to discuss the USANA scheme.
She also attended other meetings with the patient in 2011 about the scheme, including presenting at a function organised by the patient and the practice’s receptionist.
The patient was eventually recruited in Usana but palmed off to Dr. Cole’s receptionist when they expressed concerns over the doctor/patient relationship.
Dr. Cole (right) subsequently stopped treating the patient in March 2011. In October 2011 the patient quit Usana.
At the time the patient complained to Usana that she had been “unethically induced” into signing up.
How many patients Dr. Cole referred to Usana over the years is unclear.
Another of Dr. Cole’s patients, Lisa Ng, cites herself as Managing Director of Wellness Consulting Pte Ltd.
(Ng) battled with severe skin and respiratory allergies that required her constant use of medication that posed more challenges for her over time.
As such, she was determined to gain health naturally and so had benefited much from having consulted and collaborated with Dr Valerie Cole, Director of Natural Vibrant Health Integrative Medical Centre Robina, Queensland.
Her health mentor has been Dr Myron Wentz, the founder of Usana Health Sciences and Sanoviv Medical Institute.
Over 2011 and 2012 Dr. Cole made $73,431 and $71,457 respectively as a Usana distributor.
In deciding to sanction Dr. Cole, the Medical Board Tribunal noted a previous 2008 caution regarding
failure to advise a patient of her financial interest in similar circumstances.
In her defense Dr. Cole put forth the patient should have been aware of her conflict of interest, because it was “patently obvious”.
The Medical Board Tribunal rejected this argument.
At the time of signing the forms, [the patient] clearly did not fully understand the Scheme.
At that time, she did not understand she was signing to become an associate of the Scheme, as distinct to a preferred customer.
The Tribunal found Dr. Cole exploited her therapeutic relationship with her patient.
Throughout all of this, and being made aware of Dr. Cole’s conduct by at least one of her patients, it appears Usana itself didn’t take any action.
Dr. Cole purportedly hasn’t earned anything in Usana since 2015. She has since terminated her Usana distributorship.
Whether her husband is still involved in Usana is unclear.
The Medical Board ruled Dr. Cole is to “remain disengaged” from Usana for a period of twelve months. She was also ordered to pay the Medical Board Tribunal’s costs.
As at the time of publication Dr. Cole appears to have moved to Victoria.
She is currently practicing as an “Integrative General Practitioner” at the National Institute of Integrative Medicine.