FDA agents search Port Angeles clinic

PORT ANGELES — Armed Food and Drug Administration agents have executed a search warrant on suspended naturopathic physician Rick Marschall’s Natural Healing Clinic on South Barr Road, according to the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office.

Seattle-area U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Emily Langlie said last Thursday the search warrant on Marschall, who in previous civil cases was fined $10,000 in 2013 and $5,000 in 2015 by the state Department of Health, is not public information at this stage.

“Nothing publicly has been filed regarding the ongoing investigation that occurred [Wednesday],” Langlie said.

Clallam County Sheriff’s Deputy Matt Murphy said last week he was asked to provide scene security while the search warrant was carried out. It was done without incident beginning at 9 a.m. Wednesday and lasted five hours.

Murphy said he did not see Marschall while the warrant was served and did not know if he was at the clinic.

Murphy said he could not identify the items removed from the clinic.

Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict said eight FDA agents from Seattle, California and Oregon took part in serving the warrant.

“I don’t think I’ve ever done a search warrant for five hours in my lifetime,” Benedict said.

Marschall said “I have no comment” when called Thursday at his clinic about the warrant.

He hung up the phone when asked if he is still practicing naturopathy.

Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman Lindsay Meyer would not comment on the search warrant.

Meyer said the U.S. Department of Justice is the lead agency on criminal matters related to FDA investigations.

The state Department of Health suspended Marschall’s license to practice naturopathy in November 2013 and issued a cease-and-desist order against him in September 2015 after he continued to write prescriptions — the FDA documented approximately 18 prescriptions — and represent himself as licensed to practice when he was not, according to DOH records.

The suspension was based on Marschall having “committed unprofessional conduct” in violation of state law.

According to the 2013 agreed order with the DOH Board of Naturopathy that Marschall signed, he was convicted May 9, 2011, in Western Washington federal district court, in which Marschall, then 59, pleaded guilty to distributing a misbranded drug, human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG).

He also admitted he made an “untrue or misleading statement” to the FDA regarding the source of the drug being from the U.S. and not overseas and by claiming on his website that he was a “bariatric endocrinologist” who was using the drug to treat infertility.

Naturopathic doctors may not be board-certified in bariatric endocrinology — and there is no certification in bariatric endocrinology, according to the order.

HCG is a hormone produced by the placenta during pregnancy that Marschall was prescribing as a weight-loss drug, according to the agreed order.

Marschall prescribed the HCG, which was manufactured in China or India and not approved for any purpose in the U.S. and is “potentially dangerous to patients,” according to the DOH.

Side effects of a low-calorie HCG diet, which often includes injections of the hormone, are fatigue, irritability, restlessness, depression, fluid buildup (edema) and swelling of the breasts in boys and men, according to the Mayo Clinic.

HCG also increases the risk of blood clots and blood-vessel blockages, and according to the FDA, it does not aid in weight loss.

In 2008, 2009 and 2010, Marschall admitted he prescribed HCG to 170 patients who live outside of Washington state and whom he did not see in person before or after prescribing it, according to the order.

In sanctioning Marschall, the Board of Naturopathy determined he has a history of previous discipline and that the misconduct was grave, that his acts were intentional, that his motivation was for personal gain and that his conduct “brings ill repute upon the profession.”

Under the 2013 order, he was fined $10,000 and his license was suspended for at least one year.

His application for reinstatement of his license was denied in October 2015 after it was determined that he had continued his practice without a valid license, according to DOH records.

Under the order denying the reinstatement, Marschall could not have his license reinstated for at least 18 more months, or until April 2017.

If he is reinstated, he must be on probation for seven years and complete 12 hours of continuing education in ethics.

Marschall’s website at www.drmarschall.com advertises “Rick Marschall N.D.,” for naturopathic doctor.

“Rick Marschall N.D. practices wellness consulting, nutritional counseling and prevention with 30 years of experience and has positively affected thousands of people,” according to the website.

His services include “thyroid system restoration,” “sex hormone balancing” that employs “plant-based treatments” and a weight-loss program that helps people “lose on average 1 pound a day using a natural substance that is non-toxic and supports good metabolism without stimulating the system.”

The DOH issued a Sept. 23, 2015, cease-and-desist order against Marschall after discovering, based on a complaint against him, that he wrote 18 prescriptions after he was suspended, that he solicited patients and “was holding himself out as a practicing naturopath,” according to the order.

He was fined $5,000 as part of the agreed order.

“His credential is suspended,” DOH spokeswoman Sharon Moysiuk said Friday.

“If someone feels like he’s doing something he shouldn’t be with a suspended credential, then it should probably be reported and checked out.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.