In an unusual disciplinary action, Minnesota authorities have suspended a doctor at the Minneapolis Men’s Medical Clinic — a controversial alternative clinic for treating erectile dysfunction (ED) — over allegations of false advertising, inappropriate prescribing and aiding unlicensed people to practice medicine.
The mid-September action against Dr. Richard Beck followed complaints by an Edina urology group and patients who said they suffered prolonged, painful erections from medications they received at the clinic. One patient, a 64-year-old Twin Cities resident, said he twice wound up in the emergency room because of erections that lasted for hours.
Although Beck, 81, has been suspended from practicing medicine, he was still the lone doctor listed Friday morning on the website of the clinic, located in Bloomington, which remains open and continues to advertise.
Asked how the clinic remained open without its listed doctor, a spokeswoman for the Florida-based Men’s Medical Clinic declined to name any licensed provider in charge of the office. Men who make an appointment will find out the identity of the local physician, she said. The clinic’s attorney, Jimmy Charles, did not return a call Friday afternoon.
Beck’s suspension was unusual for the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice, which typically reserves discipline until the end of a lengthy, formal hearing process and lately has issued only one or two temporary suspensions per year.
A suspension while the disciplinary review is underway is “an action reserved for significant issues of concern,” such as a doctor presenting imminent harm to patients, said Ruth Martinez, executive director of the board.
Beck’s lawyer, Dave Bunde of Minneapolis, said his client was the only target within the board’s jurisdiction, but that the allegations pertain more to the clinic. He said Beck was bored in retirement after a career as a surgeon and plastic surgeon in Florida, so he moved to Minnesota, where he has family, and agreed to work part-time at the clinic. He was not involved in advertising or in responding after hours when clients called with problems, Bunde said.
“The complaints, as I understand it, were about whether the … clinic did enough to respond to those complaints after hours,” said Bunde, who has appealed the temporary suspension. “He was not on call … Dr. Beck is caught in the middle.”
As the lone licensed doctor, Beck was “captain of the ship,” Bunde said, but he noted that the Men’s Medical Clinic is a large organization based in Florida and operating in 11 states. Many of the organization’s doctors match Beck’s profile — 65 or older and board-certified in specialties other than urology.
Dr. Kevin Hornsby is the clinic’s figurehead — its founder, the author of its self-published book about ED, and the namesake of the Hornsby Method of treatment. The method often involves older medications such as papaverine, phentolamine and alprostadil, which were ultimately replaced by pills such as Viagra and Levitra because of their painful method of administration — by short-needle injection into the penis.
Pictures online show Hornsby on the July 2010 cover of Physician Times Today, a magazine produced by Megabucks Marketing for clients who want to create “instant credibility, authority, believability and celebrity status,” according to the marketing firm’s website.
Hornsby is board certified in family medicine and was trained at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. In June, he agreed to disciplinary action by the Florida Board of Medicine based on a complaint that he prescribed testosterone and injected medication without the proper tests or urology consult.
In addition to a fine, Hornsby agreed to complete a course titled “Prescribing Controlled Drugs: Critical Issues and Common Pitfalls of Misprescribing” and to never prescribe testosterone in Florida again.
Public debate about the Minneapolis clinic began this summer when doctors with Urology Associates in Edina complained to the Minnesota Attorney General. The urologists had raised similar concerns a few years earlier about impotency treatments provided by the Parnell Medical Clinic, which since has closed.
Men who suffer from erectile dysfunction often feel so embarrassed that they don’t tell their own doctors, said Dr. Karl Kemberling, the urologist who filed the complaint on behalf of his Edina practice.
“We’re just stymied as to why patients aren’t coming to us,” he said. “A lot of it is there’s an embarrassment factor.”
The powerful impotency drugs often used at such specialty clinics can produce a condition call priapism, which is diagnosed when an erection lasts four or more hours. The condition causes blood clotting in the penis that is typically drained with a needle.
A Better Business Bureau website file on the Men’s Medical Clinic includes complaints that patients throughout the U.S. felt pressured into buying thousands of dollars’ worth of injectable medication.
Local patients told the Star Tribune that they received test doses at the clinic, but then were shown how to inject the medication themselves. They went home with emergency kits in the event of priapism, including Sudafed tablets to prevent blood clotting.
One 64-year-old patient said he tried the medication three times, because traditional drugs hadn’t always worked. Twice he went to the emergency department with priapism because he said nobody responded when he called the hot line of the Men’s Clinic. A third time, he said, someone answered and met him at the clinic.
“The treatment to get rid of it,” he said, “is excruciating.”