from the this-company-seems-so-trustworthy dept
There was a hearing on Wednesday where the court rejected PissedConsumer's request to stop Roca from threatening to sue those customers, though the reasoning is unclear right now (I assume it will come out soon). The court is still considering Roca's request for an injunction against PissedConsumer.
In the meantime, however, Adam Steinbaugh has decided to dig into the Roca Labs story, and found something rather horrifying. A guy that Roca Labs was using to promote their stuff was actually a pediatrician who had lost his medical license because of his involvement with child porn. When Steinbaugh asked Roca about this, Roca suddenly pulled down any and all content on their website and on YouTube (there was a video of "Dr. Ross F." promoting Roca which had been here, but it has now been set to "private").
Roca Labs’ website and YouTube channel are saturated with images of attractive men and women wearing lab coats emblazoned with the caduceus – a symbol commonly associated with doctors and medical professionals — leaving the viewer with the impression that these are educated, licensed professionals. This is a product I can trust!But, he notes, Dr. Ross (whose full name Steinbaugh has redacted) no longer has a medical license:
Until yesterday, Roca Labs held out one such doctor — “Dr. Ross” — as its “Director of Medical Team”, hailing from “NJ, USA.” The company rarely identified him by his full name, instead severing his last name to a mere initial. In a “Letter to Your Doctor”, Dr. Ross described himself as “an independent medical consultant” describing the “Roca Labs Formula” to assure his “fellow doctor” as to its benefits. The letter was signed with his full name, followed by “MD” – medical doctor.
And yet, until earlier this week, "Dr. Ross" claimed to be the medical director at the company and claimed to "review each case for medical accuracy."
This allegation is corroborated by an Order of Revocation from the New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners, which incorporates a plea agreement, and an Order for Non Practice of Medicine from the New York State Department of Health. The substance of the agreement was that the Dr. Ross — a pediatrician — surrendered his licenses to practice medicine in New Jersey and New York and was prohibited from seeking a “license to practice medicine in any jurisdiction at any time in the future.”
The New Jersey order also includes prohibitions which “not only bar a licensee from rendering professional services, but also from providing an opinion as to professional practice or its application” and requires “affirmative action to stop advertisements by which his/her eligibility to practice is represented.”
In addition to the advertisements above, there’s also this now-deleted post, under the “ask the doctor” in which Dr. Ross F. recounts his role in the company:Of course, all of this disappeared right after Steinbaugh asked Roca about it. In response, Roca (in a long rambling email) said that the removal was not because of his request, but because Roca was "a serious company that acts according to its plans." Steinbaugh asked about those plans but didn't get an answer.
I have reviewed thousands of formal inquiries from the public that request to begin using the Roca Labs Formula for weight loss. [...] I review each case individually for medical accuracy. I have been the medical director at Roca Labs for the past year. I was in clinical medical practice for 10 years before moving into pharmaceutical management. I have been involved in the development and ongoing monitoring of the Roca Labs Formula. I work directly with the staff and customers to maintain the highest levels of medical accuracy and safety.
And while it’s unclear whether the feature ever launched, a now-deleted page advertised that the company would soon offer, for thirty-five dollars, online consultations with Dr. Ross to provide “consultation and medical advice.” Another now-deleted post advertised that for a mere $380, the “online medical staff will be at your service with detailed answers and advice 24/7″ — an option known as “be my doctor”, although it’s unclear whether Dr. Ross was employed by Roca at the time.
To be sure, the orders of New Jersey and New York explicitly do not require Dr. Ross F. to “affirmatively advise patients or others of the revocation, suspension or surrender” except in response to an inquiry, nor is it entirely clear whether the order prohibits his association and work with Roca Labs. In fact, his precise relationship with the company is entirely unclear: was he merely there to give the appearance that someone whose name is preceded by “Dr.” endorses and gives legitimacy to the company’s “formula”? Or did he have a greater role in the company’s product? If so, did those acts — whatever they were – constitute the practice of medicine? And if there are other doctors — posts on the BBB site by Roca indicate that a doctor reviews qualification forms — what are their qualifications?
Nevertheless, this is the conduct of a company which says that it is “completely transparent” and that “nothing is hidden“: intimidate critics with ominous (and likely baseless) threats of legal action and, when questions are raised, refuse to answer.