News Release October 23, 2003
MEDICAL BOARD OF CALIFORNIA
October 23, 2003
San Francisco District Attorney and the Medical Board of California File Suit to Stop Deceptive Advertising Regarding Breast Cancer Screening
SACRAMENTOSan Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan and the Medical Board of California announced today that they have jointly filed a civil suit against Craig Bittner, M.D., founder and medical director of HealthScan America, Inc., an Arizona corporation doing business in California under the name of AmeriScan. Both agencies have filed the action under Business and Professions Code section 651, a state law that prohibits the dissemination of false, misleading or deceptive advertising by California physicians. The District Attorney also has separately charged Bittner as well as the corporation with false advertising and unlawful business practices under Business and Professions Code sections 17500 and 17200.
The suit, filed today in San Francisco Superior Court, seeks to halt alleged false and deceptive advertising used in the promotion of AmeriScan's MRI BreastScreen, a test marketed as an alternative to mammography for the detection of breast cancer. Defendants are alleged to have falsely touted, among other things, that "the MRI BreastScreen is the absolute most accurate technology available for the early detection of breast cancer;" that it is "proven to find nearly 100% of all breast cancers;" and that "its success has been repeatedly documented throughout international medical literature." Defendants are also alleged to have made false and misleading statements in comparing the MRI BreastScreen to mammography, including claims that "mammograms miss two out of three breast cancers," and that the MRI BreastScreen "is proven to be three times better at detecting early breast cancer than regular x-ray mammography."
The suit alleges that these and other statements used in AmeriScan's advertising are false and deceptive, and that the scientific claims being made by defendants cannot be substantiated by reliable, peer reviewed, published scientific studies as required by law. The suit also alleges that the defendants' advertisements include false or misleading endorsements in violation of state and federal law.
"This case was filed to stop the campaign of deceptive advertising employed by defendants to scare women away from mammography in order to sell them a $2,000 MRI BreastScreen," District Attorney Hallinan said. "To actively discourage women from getting a mammogram by publicizing false and misleading information about its effectiveness compared to MRI is not only unlawful and irresponsible, it's dangerous."
Ron Joseph, Executive Director of the Medical Board, stated that "According to leading experts in breast imaging research, though MRI may be a useful tool when used in conjunction with mammography, there are no published, scientific data to support a claim that MRI is a proven alternative to mammography. Women are encouraged to consult their doctors to enable them to make the best healthcare decisions."
The suit seeks an injunction prohibiting defendants from making these and other illegal claims about the efficacy of the MRI BreastScreen without having a reliable scientific basis for such claims, and civil penalties in the amount of up to $2,500 for each deceptive advertisement and for each unlawful business practice.
The mission of the Medical Board is to protect healthcare consumers through the proper licensing and regulation of physicians and surgeons and certain allied healthcare professions and through the vigorous, objective enforcement of the Medical Practice Act.
If you have a question or complaint about the healthcare you are receiving, the Board encourages you to visit its Web site at www.medbd.ca.gov or for questions call the Consumer Information Line at (916) 263-2382, or with complaints call (800) 633-2322.