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Va. Board of Medicine Did Not Squelch Competition

RICHMOND, Va. (CN) - The Virginia Board of Medicine was not trying to create a monopoly for doctors when it sanctioned a chiropractor for providing treatment outside the scope of her profession, a federal judge ruled.

Plaintiff Yvoune Petrie sued the board and its members individually in the Federal Court in Alexandria, Va., claiming they used their authority to carve up markets and exclude chiropractors like herself from establishing practices within them.

Alternative medicine including chiropractic, acupuncture, homeopathy and other nontraditional practices. In 2007, nearly 38 percent of US adults admitted to using some form of alternative medicine. Virginia does not have a separate board for alternative or chiropractic medicine.

"The medical doctors on the Virginia Board of Medicine joined together to keep plaintiff, a Virginia chiropractor and primary care provider, from competing against medical doctors in areas where their respective customers overlap," Petrie said in her complaint.

But according to the ruling by US District Judge Claude Hilton, "the elimination of a single competitor, standing alone, does not prove the anticompetitive effect necessary to establish antitrust injury."

The Board of Medicine penalized Petrie $25,000 in fines and a six month suspension in February 2013for "acting outside the scope of chiropractic," Hilton's opinion said.

Infractions against Petrie included "false" and "misleading" claims including those that she was able to "'reverse' type 2 diabetes and treat thyroid and metabolic disorders" using nutritional and alternative medicine practices. Blood, saliva, urine testing and laser procedures were also cited in violation of Board standards. to the Virginia Court of Appeals, which upheld the sanction.

Petrie alleged the Board's actions limited the scope of chiropractic as competitors with traditional medical doctors.

"The board's conduct will have the intended effect of deterring and prohibiting non-Medical doctors from offering services," Petrie said. "Chiropractors, including plaintiff, are unable to compete in these markets, despite the fact that consumers seek their services, and seek alternatives to medical doctors."

Petrie's complaint stated that during her formal hearing in front of the board, not a single chiropractor was present on the panel. She also noted the high number of complaints and violations against chiropractors as compared with the low number of practitioners.

"We were surprised at the ruling because there were so many contested facts," said counsel for the plaintiff, Vincent Amberly. "I'm sure it's not going to stand, but we likely will be appealing it."

The Virginia Board of Medicine declined to comment.

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