Friday, April 17, 2009

Practicing Medicine Without A License: Alternative Health Talk Show Host Arrested In San Diego

On April 9, 2009 San Diego County District Attorney’s Office charged Kurt Walter Donsbach, 73, of Bonita, with practicing medicine without a license and supplying patients with supplements containing non-FDA-approved drugs. An investigation led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in cooperation with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and District Attorney’s Office led to the arrest. Bail was initially set at $1.5 million.

Donsbach is charged with 11 felony counts including:

(A) 3 counts for treating patients without a license in violation of Business & Profession Code Section 2052(a);

(B) 2 counts of misbranding drugs for sale in violation of Health & Safety Code Section 111440;

(C) 2 counts of receiving or delivering a misbranded drug in violation of Health & Safety Code Section 111450;

(D) 1 count of fraudulent representations as to the method or treatment of cancer; and

(E) 1 count of grand theft in violation of Penal Code Section 487(a).

If convicted, he faces up to six years in state prison.

According to the arrest warrant declaration, Donsbach falsely identified himself as a “chiropractor and naturopathic doctor” in literature and online at Through a weekly, online radio broadcast from Chula Vista, he claimed to offer “alternative,” “natural,” and “nutritional” remedies for many conditions and ailments including cancer and autoimmune disorders. Donsbach is not licensed as a physician, chiropractor, nor naturopathic doctor in the State of California.

An arrest warrant affidavit contains only allegations against an individual and all defendants must be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The arrest warrant declaration further stated that Donsbach’s clinic advised one patient to inject herself with “neuropeptides” to treat arthritis, saying it would “re-program” her body’s T-cells. FDA tests revealed the “neuropeptide” contained a steroid not disclosed on the packaging or labels. The patient paid thousands of dollars for the drugs and injected herself for six years, leading to severe bone density loss.

In another case, Donsbach allegedly claimed he had treated pancreatic cancer successfully about 60 percent of the time and provided a supplement to a patient. FDA tests of the supplement revealed the presence of the drug nimesulide, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory not approved by the FDA. In Europe, marketing of nimesulide has been suspended because of high rates of liver failure that resulted in deaths and liver transplants.

Attorney Commentary: There are alternative health care treatments that can be done in a legal manner by non-licensed persons. Compliance with the federal and state law is necessary, however, in order to avoid criminal charges. There are numerous clients of Donsbach who have come to his defense. However, when there are non-FDA approved medications and false claims of being licensed, these will be red flags to law enforcement and regulatory agencies.

Any questions or comments should be directed to: Tracy Green is a principal at Green and Associates in Los Angeles, California. They have represented those charged with the unlicensed practice of medicine (or the aiding and abetting of unlicensed practice) in internal investigations, disciplinary proceedings, search warrants and criminal matters.


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