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Doc Says ‘Telemedicine’ Got Him in Trouble

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (CN) - A doctor claims he was sanctioned in several states because a "Telemedicine" company persuaded him it was legal for him to offer medical consultations and write prescriptions by telephone. Dr. Ely David Zaslow said his decades-old medical practice was in good standing until he fell for the pitch from Secure Telemedicine and its owner, Wolf S. Shlagman, of Miami Beach.

Florida-based Secure Telemedicine claims on its Web site that it provides patients access to a network of licensed primary care physicians and specialists who "consult and provide complementary and ancillary medical services for non-urgent medical issues, chronic conditions, and recommend and prescribe medication (when appropriate) 24 hours a day, 365 days a year."

Dr. Zaslow claims the defendants solicited him in many forms, including email and telephone calls. He claims one solicitation included a "legal opinion letter prepared by [nonparty] attorney Dale R. Sisco." That letter claimed that Secure Telemedicine "considered the current relevant state and federal statutes and regulations," and that the company complies with them.

The letter also claimed that "While the AMA Practice Guidelines and the Model Rules of the Federation of State Medical Boards discourage the prescription of controlled substances without a physical examination of the patient, these guidelines are aspirational only and do not establish the standard of care or have the force of law," according to the complaint in Buncombe County Court.

The letter added stated the attorney had reviewed "current and relevant state and federal statutes and regulations" and determined that a physician "can prescribe Schedule III-V medications for a legitimate medical purpose" by telephone.

Zaslow said based on these assurances, he entered into a contract with Secure Telemedicine, and on its direction, became licensed in several other states, including Vermont, Rhode Island, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Alabama, Mississippi, California, Iowa, Tennessee, Nevada, and the District of Columbia.

But May 2008, Zaslow says, the North Carolina Medical Board charged him with unprofessional conduct for prescribing controlled substances for "numerous patients without physical examination and without any prior physician-patient relationship."

He says the medical board suspended his license for 30 days in July 2008, although it ultimately stayed the suspension and placed him on probation.

But Zaslow says that touched off a domino effect that led to his being reprimanded, sanctioned, fined and/or charged investigative costs in at least four other states in which he secured licenses due to his association with Secure Telemedicine.

"As a result of the various board actions brought against Dr. Zaslow, his professional reputation has been irreparably harmed, he has incurred significant attorney's fees and investigative expenses charged by the various state medical boards," according to the complaint.

Zaslow seeks treble damages, attorney's fees and costs; he alleges fraud, negligent misrepresentation and unfair and deceptive trade practices.

He is represented by Brenda McClearn and Tasha Agruso with Sharpless & Stavola of Greensboro, N.C.

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