The doctor, the diabetes claim and the league club
A former doctor who was struck off by the Medical Council is under official investigation for offering consultations to diabetes patients.
Former Auckland GP Rhys Michael Cullen was deregistered by the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal for professional misconduct in 2007, after writing about 790 prescriptions amounting to about 46,000 tablets of the pseudoephedrine drug Sudomyl.
It was alleged the prescriptions were written for people who were not patients, who were unaware of the prescriptions, or who would not be presenting them for dispensing.
Cullen defended the charge but was unsuccessful, and later was also convicted of receiving 15 stolen cars after establishing a scrap metal business.
A decade on, Cullen has launched a diabetes clinic offering consultations to type2 diabetes patients who want to 'reverse' their condition.
His website claims: "In 2006 I was a full-time medical practitioner with an interest in research. Now, my medical practice is part-time. I run a diabetes reversal clinic and am involved in elite athlete development."
"There is no question that pre-diabetes can often be reversed. Nor is there any question that type 2 diabetes can sometimes be reversed. My practice is focussed on reversal not control."
The Ministry of Health's chief legal adviser Phil Knipe confirmed it was investigating the services being offered by Cullen, but wouldn't comment further except to advise people to check that their health practitioners are registered.
The Ministry has previously prosecuted people who falsely claimed they were qualified health practitioners.
Under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act it is illegal to "use names, words, titles, initials, abbreviations, or descriptions stating or implying that the person is a health practitioner of a particular kind" if they're not registered.
The Medical Council of New Zealand said Cullen's activities were no longer in their jurisdiction because he was deregistered, but said they had alerted Ministry officials following media inquiries.
Prices on Cullen's various social media pages and websites ranged from $100 to $230 per consultation, which purported to include an assessment of the patient's medical history, analysis of their blood work, and the drawing up of a plan to reverse the diabetes.
Visited at a yard in Auckland where he still operates a scrap metal business, Cullen happily said he saw a dozen patients a week at a rented clinic in Auckland city.
He said he liked giving people advice and had a particular interest in the diabetes field after co-writing a contentious book called Maori Health in 2005.
At the time critics said the book encouraged Maori to smoke and gamble.
"What I can't claim is to be registered," he said in response to questions about the legality of offering consultations.
He added that he "absolutely" informed patients that he wasn't registered and had them sign a form saying they understood that.
"I don't think people are under any illusions. I have an MD so I can call myself a doctor, academically. Diabetes is just an interest. I give lots of advice. I give advice on immunisations, I obviously give advice about sports things.
"Being the socialist I am, about a quarter of patients - those who would have difficulty paying - are not charged. About half my patients are interested in reversing their pre-diabetes or diabetes. About half are looking for a second opinion or a different approach to management."
Cullen launched the clinic last year through Facebook and a website, and says he wrote to the Medical Council to inform them but was told it wasn't their domain.
The Council confirmed this and said it had advised him at the time to seek advice and be careful about what constituted the practice of medicine.
One of the council's definitions of practicing medicine included assessing, diagnosing, treating, reporting or giving advice in a medical capacity, using learned knowledge, skills, attitudes and competence.
Asked if he informed the Ministry, Cullen replied: "Who? Who would you inform at the Ministry of Health?
None of Cullen's social media pages or websites claim he's a registered doctor, though he refers to himself as 'doc' and "a medically trained theoretical biologist with interests in human hybrids and directed evolution".
One page of the website specifically says: "Dr Cullen is not registered as a health practitioner of any type."
Cullen also runs a self-described sports academy called the Tamaki Rugby League Club, or the Tamaki Sports Academy, which operates a scrap metal collection service that Cullen says sponsors young, disengaged sports players.
The club, of which he is chair, recently won a High Court civil case in attempts to claim a GST refund of $14,000.
Inland Revenue said his claim was invalid because at one stage the club was in liquidation, and that the club was only due a $100 refund.
The court declined to rule that the claim was invalid, and the proceedings are ongoing.
In 2016, mother and daughter wannabe dentists Christine and Karina Larsen were convicted and ordered to pay $102,000 to 82 victims who were given dentistry care by the pair.
Karina Larsen had a qualification from Otago University to perform as a dental technician, but not as a clinical dental technician, which the sentencing judge at the Hamilton District Court described as "quite a significant difference".
The women took over a Thames dental clinic previously run by Mark Larsen, the pair's husband and father.
- Sunday Star Times