A GP has denied that his clinics were “just a vending machine for peptides”
The Health Care Complaints Commission has issued a statement regarding Dr John Hart, a GP and a co-founder of Peptide Clinics Australia at the time it brought complaints against him to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
The Commission alleged that from 2014 to 2016, Dr Hart inappropriately prescribed peptides to 29 patients at the Clinic, without an appropriate therapeutic purpose or level of training to do so.
It was also alleged that he inappropriately recommended or prescribed certain treatments, drugs and vitamins and failed to obtain the patient’s informed consent.
Other allegations included that he:
- failed to provide appropriate care and treatment for the patients;
- failed to obtain an adequate history or adequate and informed consent from patients;
- kept inadequate clinical patient records;
- did not ensure adequate monitoring and communication with the patient’s GP;
- inappropriately self-prescribed some medication; and
- failed to disclose, to another patient, a conflict of interest, namely that he received a rebate from various pathology and supplement providers he referred patients to.
At the April 2021 hearing, the Tribunal noted that Dr Hart denied that the clinics were “just a vending machine for peptides” but admitted that he “engaged in very poor medical practice”.
He admitted to unsatisfactory professional conduct and professional misconduct.
His involvement with Peptide Clinics had ended in September 2016, a week before an initial hearing before the Medical Council of NSW as to whether his registration should be suspended. He agreed to remove himself from the business and stop prescribing peptides.
The Tribunal heard that when the doctor turned 50, he had found himself to be in less than good health, overweight and with a poor libido.
Seeking to address this, he discovered the “anti-ageing movement” and embarked on “self-directed training” through various organisations based in the US.
“Those organisations consider low-grade inflammation to be responsible for many illnesses including mental illnesses,” the Tribunal noted. “They aim to identify and treat the causes of inflammation in the body. Exercise is the first line of treatment, then diet and good sleep. Vitamins and minerals are often prescribed.”
In 2014, an accountant approached the doctor about prescribing peptides online.
While Dr Hart’s “own research” found only low quality evidence to support their use, he said he could not find any indication that they were harmful, and thought it was safer for him to prescribe them than for people to access them via gyms, where there would be no patient assessment and no quality control.
He devised a questionnaire on the website, asking patients about “current high-risk symptoms” such as night sweats, fever and severe fatigue, and asked them to report any existing medical conditions, including diabetes and uncontrolled heart disease.
They were also asked to identify interests such as anti-ageing, weight/fat loss, anxiety, “safe enhanced tanning,” insomnia relief, increased libido and more.
The Tribunal outlined the process via which patients received the medicines.
“The script was sent directly to the compounding pharmacy,” it noted.
“The pharmacy compounded the prescription and organised for a courier to deliver the substances directly to the patient together with syringes for injectable substances.
“The patient was not ordinarily sent a copy of the prescription but received an email confirming their order. The email included generic information about administration and dosage.
“After the peptides were sent, the administrative support team contacted each patient to ask if they had any questions.
“If a patient had a question or concern of a medical nature, the support team would refer them to Dr Hart. Dr Hart would respond to the patient by email. There was no face-to-face contact with the majority of prospective purchasers.”
If a second order came in, Dr Hart did not check on past orders, and “agreed that he did not know whether a person was ordering more than they could safely consume in a given time period”.
He said it had not occurred to him that his patients could be abusing or on-selling the medicines.
In its April 2021 decision, the Tribunal found most of the complaints against Dr Hart proved and that his conduct amounted to professional misconduct.
The Tribunal will determine the appropriate protective orders at a further hearing.