Naturopathic clinic owner sentenced to two months in prison

PORT ANGELES — Rick Marschall of the Natural Healing Clinic will face two months in prison and a $2,000 fine for illegally prescribing misbranded hormones to patients for weight loss.

The sentence Friday followed a felony conviction in 2011 for similarly causing the introduction of a misbranded drug: human chorionic gonadoptrin (HCG). As a result, Marschall, who is now 65, was put on probation for two years.

In 2013, the Department of Health learned Marschall continued to provide HCG to patients, many of whom he never met, and so suspended his naturopathic license and fined him $10,000.

“Marschall has not had a valid license to practice naturopathy since 2013,” the Department of Justice said in a press release.

HCG is a hormone produced by the placenta during pregnancy, and it’s illegal to sell or prescribe as a weight-loss drug. The Food and Drug Administration has approved HCG to treat infertility — its most common use — but not weight loss, according to Marschall’s July 2017 plea agreement.

“Dr. Marschall tempted fate after a prior conviction,” said U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton, who dealt the sentence. “This is a serious offense.”

As part of his sentence, Marschall will be on one year of supervised release, and U.S. Probation will work with the state Department of Health regarding the status of his currently suspended naturopathic license, according to the Department of Justice.

Marschall, who answered the phone Friday at the Port Angeles clinic, 162 S. Barr Road, declined to comment on his sentence. He has operated that clinic for 31 years, and with a suspended license since November 2013.

Marschall’s federal public defender Miriam Schwartz of Tacoma said the sentence was appropriate.

“He doesn’t need to spend time in jail but the board adopted our position, which was a lesser sentence,” Schwartz said. “Dr. Marschall does not need to be punished more than he’s already been punished by the health care system and the licensing system.”

Marschall became a credentialed naturopathic physician on August 26, 1985.

The state Department of Health has received a number complaints against Marschall from 1994 to 2017, including practicing without a valid license and practicing beyond the scope of his practice, according to the department’s records.

In September 2016, undercover Department of Health investigators met with Marschall at his Kirkland office.

Marschall reportedly introduced himself as a “retired naturopathic physician.”

He told one of the investigators daily injections of HCG could allow her to lose 30 pounds in six weeks.

HCG products typically require a strict 500-calorie a day diet in tandem with the hormone. Reported side effects of the HCG diet include fatigue, irritability, restlessness, depression, fluid buildup, swelling of the breasts in boys and men and blood clotting, according to the Mayo Clinic.

A restrictive HCG diet also can cause an irregular heartbeat, gallstone formation and an imbalance of electrolytes that prevents muscles and nerves from functioning properly, according to the FDA.

Marschall told the investigator he keeps HCG at his Port Angeles office and volunteered to bring the hormone to the Kirkland office and show her how to inject it into her stomach.

He claimed HCG treats cancer, reduces appetite, directs the body to store fat outside the muscle and reduces fat in hips, buttocks and thighs.

Marschall also claimed HCG has allowed people in wheelchairs to regain their ability to walk and told of a patient who experienced a correction of astigmatism in his eye.

Marschall described one of his female patients as “pear shaped” and said HCG reduced weight around her hips and increased her breast size.

The investigators scheduled to meet with Marshall again five days later but he never showed.

Later that fall, Marschall communicated via email with an undercover FDA Office of Criminal Investigations investigator and conducted a one-hour telephone screening before sending her HCG through the mail. the U.S. Department of Jusice said.

Marschall never met or examined the “patient” before mailing the drugs to her at a Portland, Ore., address, the justice department said.

“Marschall obtained the HCG from pharmacies by lying about the status of his license and his DEA registration number,” according to the Department of Justice.

“This defendant flouted the laws that are designed to keep patients safe,” U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes said. “Even after he was convicted for acting illegally, Richard Marschall continued to provide hormones to patients without any basis in medical science. This prison sentence is necessary to send the message that this conduct must end.”

Marschall’s website, dr.marschall.com, remains unchanged since the second conviction, and Marschall picked up his clinic’s office phone twice on Friday.

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Reporter Sarah Sharp can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56650, or at [email protected].

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