Danville chiropractor ordered to pay $1.1 million for deceptive marketing

Traction device falsely claimed FDA approval, targeted people with chronic pain

A Danville chiropractor has been ordered to pay $1,125,000 to settle a multi-jurisdictional prosecution stemming from a nationwide health care marketing fraud.

Dr. Benjamin Altadonna made or caused to be made a traction device which he "sold or leased for between $90,000 and $115,000," according to the Alameda County District Attorney's office.

The D.A.'s office filed a civil lawsuit in 2010 to stop Altadonna from marketing a spinal traction device known as the DRX-9000. The Alameda County D.A. was joined by district attorneys from Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, Orange, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Solano and Sonoma counties.

The complaint filed by district attorneys claims that Altadonna and his company, Altadonna Communications, Inc., promoted the DRX-9000 as "patented," "breakthrough medical technology," "approved by the FDA," and "developed by NASA." All of these claims were false, according to D.A. Nancy O'Malley's office, which said the DRX-9000 was merely a motorized traction device for the treatment of low back pain.

The district attorneys' investigation showed that Altadonna received commissions from the manufacturer of the DRX-9000 to sell the device to health care professionals. Altadonna created and sold "professional practice building" products to health care professionals, using the DRX-9000 as a centerpiece for his professional clients. The D.A.'s office also said Altadonna "taught them how to pressure patients to commit to advance purchases of expensive treatments on the DRX-9000."

In addition, the D.A.'s office said Altadonna's marketing materials targeted a vulnerable class of patients including those suffering from chronic, severe back pain.

"In California, health care professionals have a duty to verify claims used to promote their services. We will not tolerate predatory marketing techniques by health care professional aimed at unsuspecting and vulnerable patients." O'Malley said. "Consumers should be wary of products and services that make unrealistic health care claims that sound too good to be true and lack adequate substantiation."

The state of Oregon fined Altadonna for similar practices.

Altadonna entered into an agreement with Oregon's attorney general in 2007, requiring the chiropractor to change his marketing practices and to provide "reliable scientific evidence such as tests, analysis, research, studies ... based on the expertise of professionals in the relevant area" to back up his claims, which Altadonna never did.

The Alemeda County D.A.'s office said Altadonna used pseudonyms to sell and disseminate "thousands of marketing plans to thousands of licensed health care professionals inside and outside the State of California."

After a 2006 meeting with the Monterey County D.A., Altadonna began transferring assets to co-defendants Altadonna Living Trust and Diablo Park LLC.

The final judgment was signed on March 20 and permanently blocks Altadonna from violating or helping others violate the state's health care marketing laws. In addition to the payment of $1,125,000 in civil penalties, costs and restitution, the settlement requires Altadonna to comply with a court-ordered injunction to prevent him from committing future unfair or deceptive business practices.


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Posted by Bill
a resident of Danville
on Mar 27, 2012 at 6:33 am

Imagine that a chiropractor using false and deceptive marketing What is this world coming to?

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Posted by Truth
a resident of Danville
on Mar 27, 2012 at 9:26 am

Chiropractors do not even need a college undergraduate degree to get into chiropractic college. By law, they are not allowed to prescribe medication or do any type of surgical procedure in California. This is exactly why their nonsense ads always attack MD prescribed medication, surgeries, because they are not allowed to do these things. Hence, of course they are against things they are not allowed to do.

Chiropractice was started by a man named Palmer in Iowa, with no medical training at all, who owned a grocery store and claimed he restored a deaf person's hearing by simply pressing on their spine.

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Posted by RJJ MD
a resident of Danville
on Mar 27, 2012 at 12:43 pm

I am an MD who trusts most Chiropractic practices but like ever profession there are good ones and bad. To totally dismiss Chiropractors shows an unfortunate lack of understanding of the human body.

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Posted by Truth
a resident of Danville
on Mar 27, 2012 at 1:12 pm

RJJ MD: Of course, everyone feels better with a massage, hot packs, eletrical stimulation, etc, and those adjucts that a chiropractor is legally allowed to do as an adjuct to chiropractic manipulations. I have no problem with that. But I do have a problem with chiropractors claiming to "heal everything" with a chiropractic manipulation. The chiropractic manipulation, like moxibustion(holding flaming herbs near the injured part of the body" does nothing that one or two visits to a licensed physical therapy, and home stretching and exercise program can do. Chiropractors are part of the real problem with personal injury abuses, treating patients on a lien basis, where they run up excessive bills for personal injury lawsuits, and then take cents on the dollar from the plaintiff's attorney after settlement.

I am especially disgusted how these chiropractors run ads claiming that their "treatment" can prevent ear infections in young children, and negate the reason for parents to immunize their children. Letting a C- student in high school, who attended a junior college and never obtained a college undergraduate degree, before starting chiropractic school, claim to be more knowldegeable about treatment for children than a board certified pediatrician, is ridiculous.

If you have a bad back, see a board certified orthopedic surgeon, have a few physical therapy visits, and do home exercises and take warm baths. Do not spend thousands of dollars every year for the chiropractor to manipulate your spine.

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Posted by Jimmy
a resident of Danville
on Mar 27, 2012 at 7:10 pm

I have known him for years and he is not a bad guy. He would have given the shirt off his back if you needed it.

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Posted by Mike
a resident of Danville
on Mar 27, 2012 at 9:59 pm

Agree with Jimmy. A very nice guy. Hope he gets this behind him.

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Posted by Theresa N
a resident of Vista Grande Elementary School
on Mar 28, 2012 at 10:16 am

I will never trust a chiroprator again. I spent thousands of dollars and a year and half of my life believing that this guy was going to fix my back pain. With weekly adjustmants and excercise I was going to be all better. Sure I felt good after my adjustments but it was always short lived. Then I started going 2x's a week. I was a gym junkie so I was faithful with all my exercises. Well finally after I opened my eyes and realized I wasn't getting better I did go to an orthapedic surgeon they took exrays as did the chiroprator and found out with the surgeon that my back pain wasn't going to get better as I had 2 discs totally gone in my lowerback. why did the chiropractor see this when I first started seeing him...because he wanted my money. Well now after surgery I am left with an illness called Arachnoiditis which is an extremly painful nerve disease. I don't know this particular chiropractor but he is definately right up there with the rest of them in my book.

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Posted by Jane
a resident of Greenbrook Elementary School
on Mar 30, 2012 at 12:12 am

Where's Alemeda County?

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Posted by Amanda
a resident of San Ramon
on Mar 30, 2012 at 9:24 am

There are good chiropractors and there are bad ones. Don't let a bad experience sour you on the entire profession. Chiropractors can do a lot of good. After my car accident a couple of years it was a chiropractor that got me functioning and pain free again.

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Posted by Truth
a resident of Danville
on Mar 30, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Amanda: Let me guess, after running up the bills with chiropractor, your back suddenly got better after you got your personal injury settlement.

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Posted by CW
a resident of Blackhawk
on Mar 30, 2012 at 5:35 pm

Did anyone hear about the Danville mother and her two daughters; age 12 and 14 who were assaulted by several black women at the San Ramon skating rink? The girls realized their cell phones and money had been stolen from their shoes and the mother asked some black women who were sitting nearby if they had seen anything. The women became enraged and began "slugging" the mother and when the eldest daughter stepped in to protect her mother one woman grabbed the girl by her hair and slammed her head into the table, threw her on the floor, kicked her and threw a table on her! The younger daughter was hit also. The eldest girl had to be taken to the hospital! Police were summoned but DID NOT ARREST ANY OF THESE WOMEN!! There were several black men, women and children in the roller rink who drove there from Oakland! Seems they converge on the San Ramon skating rink Friday evenings around 9:30PM because the rinks in Oakland are closed I know this because I know the family. I have seen no publicity about this! Why is this being hushed? Why weren't any of these assailants arrested? Parents beware! Watch your children closely!

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Posted by Linda L.
a resident of Danville
on Mar 30, 2012 at 6:15 pm

You are not going to hear about incidents involving black women from Oakland or anywhere else by the newspapers cause they don't want to get sued or be called "racist.". Whay would you want to hang out in Oakland where there is so much crime? Come to San Ramon where you can do what you want and not get arrested. Too bad but that's the way it is.

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Posted by Kathy
a resident of Danville
on Mar 31, 2012 at 1:06 pm

A nice guy? Self serving. His shirt off his back? Sure, right after he takes your coat from you. He got rich from fraud, and is still loaded. He was lucky he didn't go to jail, give me a break. Poor guy...No wonder there is so much fraud, people feel bad for the guy that created his own issue, but what about the poor schmuck who went broke from it!

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Posted by CW
a resident of Blackhawk
on Mar 31, 2012 at 1:34 pm

That's right Linda but things need to change and we can't sit by and just let this go on! We have a president who protects them and takes care of them so they get paid for not working! I'm over it!

Let's all boycott the Golden Skate and let Mr. Sharifi know we will not accept his attitude! He says the white family is not allowed back in well what about the assailants? Why are they allowed into his rink? It appears he welcomes the blacks over the whites so he is inviting crime and violence! (Interesting coming from a man who was robbed by two black men)!!! It is dangerous for our children to skate there under these conditions! Parents beware!

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