10 things you should know about Bosley Medical
You may have seen their advertisements and thought, "It seems too good to be true". As it turns out, your skepticism is warranted. According to their own figures the Bosley Medical Group (BMG) spent almost a third of its revenue on advertising and promotion to lure patients into its hair restoration clinics. With all of the paid propaganda it can be difficult for a prospective patient to unravel the truth about this organization. In reality Bosley has been the subject of numerous patient complaints, lawsuits, and violations relating to their advertising, medical procedures, and business practices.
1. Medical Board Violations. Larry Lee Bosley has been the subject of administrative and judicial discipline for almost 30 years. His medical license has been put on probation or surrendered in at least 20 states. In 1980 his medical license was suspended for dishonest and harmful advertising. In 1981 the medical board filed to revoke probation against Bosley for acts of dishonesty and corruption in advertising. In 1983 the LA Superior Court entered a judgment against Bosley suspending his license for one year. A Los Angeles D.A.'s letter in connection with the 1996 consumer protection lawsuit declared: "Although Bosley has been given every opportunity to rectify his deceptive business practices so as to comply with the law (and his probationary terms), and despite the risk to his medical certificate, Bosley has persisted in misleading the public." In 2002 the California Medical Board filed an accusation and petition against Larry Lee Bosley to revoke his probation. In 2005 an Administrative Law Judge ordered his license revoked, and then stayed in exchange for probation extension for prescription drug violations and failure to keep adequate patient records. Bosley was ordered to enroll in a course on ethics.
2. False and Misleading Advertising. In 1996 the California Attorney General, the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office and Consumer Protection Division brought forth a consumer protection lawsuit against Bosley Medical. This was prompted by the medical board's extensive investigation of of Larry Lee Bosley and BMG based upon numerous consumer complaints alleging false and misleading advertising and medical malpractice. In The People of the State of California v. Bosley Medical Group, Bosley was fined almost $650,000. The D.A.'s office alleged that BMG engaged in a widescale advertising campaign heavily based on false and misleading representations and found evidence that BMG used retouched and false "after" photographs in its advertisements- hairlines were altered or "airbrushed". The photos that appeared in a brochure as "after procedure" photos were actually taken of a Bosley Medical employee who had never had any procedures done. Additional allegations included misrepresentations of pain, scarring, and results, and non-doctors performing procedures. In 2002 a former Bosley Medical doctor testified that they continued to engaged in illegal conduct and violate laws despite the medical board's probationary terms and stipulations put in place after the People v. Bosley consumer protection lawsuit.
3. Poor Results. Dateline NBC aired an report titled: Splitting Hairs; undercover investigation of Bosley Medical Clinics. The report, which included interviews with former employees and patients, told about botched surgeries and broken promises. Interviews with former Bosley employees revealed that there was a big gap between what Bosley Medical sold and what it delivered.
4. Low-balling Costs and "First Starts". (from court documents) A Consumer Protection Division letter stated that BMG's primary goal was convincing potential customers to get into the surgical chair where they became a First Start. "First starts are very lucrative to BMG because initial work is often unsatisfactory to patients, and they are hooked into long-term financial commitments that often exceed the initially represented costs". Patients have sometimes been told that it will cost tens of thousands of dollars more to treat them. "They tell you that occasionally their diagnosis has to be revised somewhat, and there's 'touch up work' they call it."- explained a former patient. How much touch-up work did they end up doing on him? Seven touch-up surgeries, seven different procedures and $50,000 later. "That was the idea" concurs Dr. Stan Szaslo, a former BMG surgeon. "Get them in. Get them started. Get them hooked."
5. SMAs (from medical board disciplinary action) Larry Lee Bosley has faced disciplined action for having his clinics use a principal sales device called the "Senior Medical Assistant" or SMA. They performed patient consultations at BMG clinics. SMAs were found to be merely salespeople dressed up in white lab coats. The SMA's uniform created the highly misleading illusion that they were medically trained personnel. According to state disciplinary records, the SMA's compensation included incentives based upon the procedures they sold. "Such compensation...which amounts to payment for referrals of patients, induces the selling of procedures based on profit motives rather than on attempting to obtain the best results for patients, and constitutes unprofessional conduct". Bosley Medical now calls their salespeople "Senior Counselors". Their nationwide ads for these positions have sought "sales professionals" with one-on-one presentation experience in such fields as real estate, franchise programs and high-end or luxury products.
6. Brazen attitude toward their patients (from court documents) An internal document from the early 1990's that surfaced during the DA's investigation entitled "BMG Operational Philosophy" stated that the group is in the "dealing with insecure people" business. Don Broder, head SMA until 1998, wrote an interoffice memo to BMG president John Ohanesian discussing the failure of a particular SMA to properly "saute" a prospective patient into obtaining a procedure. The "saute" involves low-balling the anticipated cost, often in conjunction with the "Yellow Brick Road". This was a system of assessing the worth of a potential patient so that recommendations for surgical procedures were based on income level - the wealthier the client, the more surgery to be done. A memo to SMA named Brent discussing one patient's complaint said: "The scar was real big and is still sensitive . . . Should we tick 'forget this one' or invite him back for some ice cream?" A response on the bottom of the page indicates that Brent should "send the form letter about we're sorry your (experience) etc.
7. Pain (from court documents) Bosley's employees have been directed to downplay discomfort associated with procedures and never to use the word "pain" or "pain killers" to potential customers. In truth, BMG is well aware from patient complaints on file that many patients experience excruciating pain. A 1996 memo addressed to all BMG management and doctors disclosed: "Today I treated a 48 year old patient . . He told me the following: . . The discomfort of being anesthetized was so severe that he seriously considered never returning to BMG. Post-operatively he also suffered considerable pain in the donor area for 2 to 3 weeks, to the degree that it was difficult to sleep".
8. Invasiveness of procedures. Bosley Medical has downplayed the seriousness of surgery that takes place at their clinics, having described it as "minor" or "superficial" in their advertisements. Many are surprised to learn how invasive these types of procedures can be. Donor area harvesting involves excising or cutting out sections of scalp containing layers of tissue, nerves, blood vessels and sweat glands. Each subsequent procedure removes more tissue. Some possible side effects from this type of surgery in general include effluvium, or shock fall-out of the existing hair caused by the effects of surgery, loss of sensation- or numb or "dead" spots, visible scarring, and unnatural and irregular appearance of the scalp (see the Procedures page).
9. Blood drawn as a sales tool (from medical board disciplinary action) Several medical boards have taken action against Bosley for deceptive blood tests based on the 1996 DA investigation. According to the investigation, it was a practice at Bosley Medical to take and charge a prospective patient for blood laboratory tests and proceed to surgery without waiting for the results. The DA said that the drawing of blood was not for medical necessity but was used as a marketing tool to get patients to commit to following through with the procedures. A former BMG physician confirmed that blood was drawn merely as a sales tool designed to make the patient feel "bonded" to BMG or committed to going through with the procedures.
10. Other options. Surgery can reduce the efficacy of drug and other therapies and limit options for future treatments (see the Procedures page). More effective and less invasive treatments (e.g., hair multiplication) are being researched and developed which could make the current methods obsolete.
On an ironic note, with years of deception on record Bosley Medical actually put a "consumer alert" section in their brochure - cautioning consumers to avoid outfits who have used misleading and fraudulent advertising.