"AIDS Cure" Scammers in Repeated Trouble

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

In November 1992, FDA Consumer magazine described the chilling story of two doctors who were ripping off AIDS patients. The report stated that they would (a) diagnose people by looking at them; (b) say were in "Stage I, II, or III" of AIDS; (c) charge $10,000, $20,000, or $30,000 according to the stage; (d) guarantee to cure; and (e) advise patients to stop taking their FDA-approved drug so that it would not mask the effect of theirtreatment. After an extensive investigation by the FDA, the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners concluded that Therial L. Bynum, M.D., of Murfreesboro, Tenn., and Everett R. Echols II, M.D., of Shelbyville, Tenn., were guilty of malpractice, unprofessional conduct, and making false statements. Bynum was also found guilty of offering to treat a disease using a "secret means." The state revoked Bynum's license and fined him $5,000. Echols was fined $3,000 and had his license suspended for six months, after which he could resume his psychiatric practice, but not his general medical practice [1]. Recently, when I read the story, I searched the Internet for further information about the pair and found that both have had considerable other trouble.

In addition to Tennessee, Bynum has practiced in Illinois and Nebraska. In 1988, he was convicted in Cook County, Illinois of conspiracy with intent to receive more than $10,000 in "kickbacks" from a medical laboratory in exchange for referring specimens to this laboratory. As a result, the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation indefinitely suspended his license. In 1993, because he failed to disclose this fact on his 1992 renewal appilcation for narcotics registration, a federal jury convicted him of "knowingly or intentionally furnishing false or fraudulent material information in, or omitting material information" from the application. In 1996, the Drug Enforcement Administration revoked his registrations for Tennessee and Nebraska [2]. Today, Bynum operates a disjointed-looking Web site that offers "Specialized Personal Training CDs" with promises that "self-hypnosis" will enable you to remove stress, elevate your mood, and "increase your ablility to study, tak tests, or retaining information in lectures without depending on note-taking, and with 100% retention and total recall." [3]

Echols remained on probation and practiced in Tennessee for a few years and then relocated to North Carolina. The Tennessee Medical Board has posted the following summary of its actions between 1992 and 1996:

Action Reason Effective Date
Suspended for 5 months, credit will be given for time license was summarily suspended; reappear before lifting suspension; 2 years probation; practice limited to psychiatry; civil penalty of $3,000, paid 9/23/96 Unprofessional, dishonorable or unethical conduct; making false statements or representations; gross malpractice or pattern of continued or repeated malpractice; ignorance, negligence or incompetence 6/4/92

Suspension to remain in effect; must enter into contract with Physicians Health Program and obtain evaluation and advocacy; must take SPEX exam

Request for order modification 6/9/93
Order modification denied; must pass SPEX; may not practice psychiatry without board authorization; forbidden to engage in AIDS research without board authorization. Request for order modification 11/22/93
Suspension lifted; 2 years probation (7/29/93 to 7/30/96); license limited to emergency room medicine only; $3,000 civil penalty assessed, to be paid within 1 year of order, paid 9/23/96; must maintain contract with Physicians Health Program Request for order modification; compliance with all pertinent portions of previous orders 7/29/94
Probation to continue for 18 months; $3,000 civil penalty to be paid during probation period, paid 9/23/96; must maintain advocacy of Physicians Health Program in TN or NC; must continue sessions with his psychiatrist; must practice in structured setting Request for order modification 3/3/95
Probation and all restrictions on license lifted Compliance with order 9/30/96

In 1996, after he had moved to North Carolina, Echols was charged with 21 counts of prescribing controlled substances without being registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration. In 1998, after he pled guilty in federal court to two counts, the North Carolina Medical Board suspended his license for 90 days [4].

In 2004, Echols got into more serious trouble and had his North Carolina license revoked [5]. The revocation order indicates that from 2003 to 2004, he was employed by an Internet pharmacy ring that provided drugs to individuals who completed online questionnaires. Echols rviewed the questionnaires and issued the necessary prescriptions. He had no professional relationship with the buyers and did not examine them. The situation came to a head after a California woman and her son who obtained 90 high-dose antidepressant pills used them to commit suicide [6]. Local police found the empty bottle of Elavil with Echols's name as the prescriber. Echols subsequently admitted to investigators that he had authorized 244,000 prescriptions over an 8-month period, for which he was paid $3 per prescription [7].

In 2005, based on the North Carolina Board action, the Tennessee Medical Board revoked his Tennesee license. In 2007, the Federal Government followed through and charged Echols, two other physicians, and 11 other people with illegal distribution of controlled drugs [8].

References

  1. Baxter S, Segal M. Docs lose licenses after 'secret cure' scam. FDA Consumer 26(9):40-41, 1992.
  2. Therial L. Bynum, M.D.; Revocation of registration. Federal Register 61(23)3948-3950, Feb 2, 1996.
  3. Bynum TL. The art and practice of "self-hypnosis and mood elevation." Hypnosis for You Web site, accessed Dec 20, 2007.
  4. Findings of fact, conclusions of law, and order of discipline. In re: Everett Raphael Echols, II, M.D. Before the North Carolina Medical Board, Dec 7, 1998.
  5. Findings of fact, conclusions of law, and order of discipline. In re: Everett Raphael Echols, II, M.D. Before the North Carolina Medical Board, Nov 10, 2004.
  6. Shugart K. Surfing for scripts. Creative Loafing, July 12, 2006.
  7. Shugart K. Bad medicine: N.C. doctor among 14 people indicted for drug trafficking. Creative Loafing, March 7, 2007.
  8. Indictment. United States of America vs. Frank Hernandez et al. U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, Case No. 07--60027, Filed Feb 2, 2007.

This article was posted on December 24, 2007.

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