BOSTON (CN) - A clinic in Framingham, Mass., knowingly sold erectile-dysfunction medication that actually worsened the condition and put users at risk for other serious side effects, the state's attorney general says.
The July 1 complaint filed in Suffolk County Superior Court says that the Massachusetts Men's Medical Clinic and its principles, Kevin and Heidi Hornsby, violated state law by posing as a legitimate medical facility, and by engaging in a dubious marketing campaign for an expensive and sometimes painful erectile dysfunction treatment.
As described in the complaint, the defendants allegedly sold their treatment "as new, unique to each patient, painless and with minimal or no side effects."
"In fact," Attorney General Maura Healey says, "these medications were not new, not unique to each patients, had pain as a known and common side effect and had a host of additional, potentially serious side effects, including priapism, which can itself cause penile tissue toxicity and worsen erectile dysfunction."
The attorney general says more than 4,000 men went to the defendants' facility and paid over $5 million for the injection treatment.
The complaint alleges that a large percentage of the money received from patients was plowed into a highly deceptive advertising campaign intended to keep the scam going.
This campaign allegedly included unsubstantiated claims about competitor's treatments, falsely claimed that co-owner Kevin Hornsby was a licensed physician in the state of Massachusetts, and said that the "first 37 callers" would receive a special treatment for $199 instead of $299.
In reality, the complain says, every caller was told that 12 of those 37 spots were still open, and no customer was ever charged more than $199 for the first visit. Once in the facility, however, they were told effective treatment would require a six-month to one-year commitment and cost between $2,000 and $3,500.
Healey says the defendants also intentionally hid the fact that their treatments included penile injections involving needles.
According to the complaint, knowledge of the use of needles would have left the defendants' marketing campaign "dead in the water."
The company's telemarketing script specifically trained operators to avoid questions about the treatment being injected. In the event that a potential customer directly pressed the issue, operators were instructed to say "When you push a button a small hairline injector will drop down and slip under the skin - it won't hurt ... will feel like a thump because it's above the nerves in the penis," the complaint says.
The defendants also implied that all sales were final in order to dissuade unsatisfied consumers from seeking refunds, by vaguely referring "applicable laws" that do not exist.
They also referred to their facility as a clinic, despite never acquiring a clinic license from the state Department of Public Health.
On top of all this, the clinic's website featured false testimonials, the attorney general claims.
Representatives from the Massachusetts Men's Medical Clinic did not respond to a request for comment.
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