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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF ARIZONA
TERRY A. RONDBERG, D.C.,
THE FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION and ROBERT PITOFSKY, in his official capacity as Chairman of THE FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION,
Plaintiff, by his undersigned counsel hereby states as follows:
1. Plaintiff Terry A. Rondberg, D.C., publishes books, pamphlets, trade and scientific journals, and a newsletter promoting chiropractic care. Until recently, he and others like him thought they had the right to do so without the interference of the federal government. However, in two recent investigations, the Federal Trade Commission has determined that the public advocacy of chiropractic care, and the advocacy of an off-label use of an FDA approved drug by a not-for-profit organization can constitute a deceptive trade practice and/or false advertising. In these two cases the FTC takes the position that it has the authority to ban the public expression of these opinions, and has threatened to do so unless the targets of these investigations sign consent agreements in which they agree not to engage in this public advocacy. These two FTC proposed enforcement actions have sent a chilling shockwave throughout the health care industry.
2. Simply put, Dr. Rondberg has filed this lawsuit to obtain protection for himself and other public advocates from the FTC's infringement on their first amendment rights, and for a judicial declaration that the FTC does not have the jurisdiction to indirectly regulate the practice of chiropractic or medicine by silencing individuals or groups who advocate specific types of health care. Although, Dr. Rondberg has not yet been investigated by the ETC, he or others like him could be next.
3. Terry A. Rondberg, D.C., is a chiropractor who resides in Chandler, Arizona.
4. The Federal Trade Commission ("FTC") is a federal agency whose primary mission is to oversee anti-trust matters and regulate interstate advertising and deceptive trade practices with regard to products. Robert Pitofsky is the Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission.
5. This Court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §1331, in that the action arises under the laws and Constitution of the United States, and the Federal Declaratory Judgment Act 28 U.S.C. § 2201 and 2202.
6. Venue is proper in the District of Arizona under 28 U.S.C. §1391(e), in that plaintiff has his principal business here, Plaintiff s activities take place in this district, and the case does not involve real property.
A. Dr. Rondberg's Activities
7. Terry A. Rondberg is a chiropractor, who for many years provided chiropractic care to patients. However, for the past eight years, Dr. Rondberg has devoted all of his professional energies to the advancement of chiropractic as family wellness care. He is an author, educator and public speaker who extols the benefits of chiropractic care. He is president of the World Chiropractic Alliance ("WCA"), which is a foundation dedicated to public education about the benefits of chiropractic, and the dangers of drug therapy and other forms of ineffective medical interventions. Dr. Rondberg publishes Health Watch, WCA's official newsletter which exposes many of the failures in the allopathic-drug model.
8. Dr. Rondberg has also written several books about chiropractic, the most recent of which is "Chiropractic: Compassion and Expectation." Most of Dr. Rondberg's books are meant for the lay audience. His books advocate the use of chiropractic first, drugs second, and surgery as the last choice of care. Finally, Dr. Rondberg has published several pamphlets including "Twelve Ways to Test for Nerve Interference," and "What You Need to Know About Vaccinations."
9. The pamphlets, as well as the books are distributed both directly to the public as well as to chiropractors who provide these materials to their patients and prospective patients. As much as anything, Dr. Rondberg is attempting to change the mind set of Americans and have them adopt a different outlook about health and what is optimal health care.
10. The writings of chiropractors like Dr. Rondberg are particularly important to chiropractic, because good chiropractors will spend a great deal of time teaching their patients about chiropractic care, and in particular, the benefits and necessity of regular spinal care. One of the key instructional components used by chiropractors to deliver this message is through literature like that published by Dr. Rondberg. However, two recent FTC actions have cast a dark shadow over the ability of chiropractors to deliver their message to patients.
B. The FTC v. Koren.
11. In or about 1996, the FTC commenced an investigation against Dr. Tedd Koren. Like Dr. Rondberg, Dr. Koren is a chiropractor who works as a public advocate of chiropractic, Dr. Koren publishes pamphlets which extol the benefits of chiropractic, and argues, inter alia, that based on published scientific studies, chiropractic is a better choice of health care than many standard allopathic methods.(1) Dr. Koren's pamphlets like Dr. Rondberg's books, extol the virtues of chiropractic and promote it as an excellent health care choice. Dr. Koren also sells other authors' books directly to the public. However, some books and most or all pamphlets are sold to chiropractors who distribute these materials to patients and prospective patients, as part of the basic chiropractic principle of public education about spinal health care.
12. In or about mid-1998, the FTC concluded that Dr. Koren's activities constitute false advertising and or deceptive trade practices. The FTC sent him a proposed consent order and a proposed administrative complaint. The FTC said sign the consent order or face a lengthy and costly administrative proceeding. The proposed consent agreement basically prohibits Dr. Koren from making any public claims about the benefits of chiropractic unless the claims are supported by scientific studies which the FTC believes to be authoritative or valid.
(1) Dr. Rondberg's approach is subtly but significantly different. According to Dr. Rondberg, the professional practice objective of chiropractic is:
"to correct spinal nerve interference (vertebral subluxation) in a safe, effective manner. The correction is not to be considered to be a specific cure for any particular symptom or disease. It is applicable to any patient who exhibits spinal nerve interference regardless of the presence or absence of symptoms or disease."
>Rondberg and Feuling, "Chiropractic: Compassion and Expectations," 1998, page 91.
13. Although Dr. Koren's specific message is somewhat different from Dr. Rondberg's(2) their activities are quite similar. Both sell books and pamphlets which sometimes are distributed by chiropractors, and both are strong advocates of the benefits of chiropractic care.
(2) As previously suggested, Dr. Rondberg does not believe that chiropractic is a direct cure or even a treatment for any disease or condition other than vertebral subluxation. However, all chiropractors believe that keeping the spine healthy and correcting spinal nerve interference can have a beneficial effect, and may sometimes lead to a resolution of some medical conditions. But Dr. Rondberg stresses that He purpose of chiropractic is to correct spinal nerve interference, not to treat any disease or medical condition.
C. The FTC v. ACAM
14. The American Academy for the Advancement of Medicine ("ACAM") is a not-for-profit medical foundation which advances the use of the drug EDTA as a chelating agent for the treatment of heart ailments, such as arteriosclerosis. EDTA is approved by the FDA for the treatment of lead poisoning. However, its use for heart disease is off-label, or not specifically approved by the FDA. ACAM neither sells nor receives any income from the sale of EDTA. However, its membership consists of physicians who utilize the drug in their private practices.
15. Upon information and belief, in or about 1997, the FTC commenced an investigation of ACAM focusing on its public advocacy of EDTA as a treatment for heart disease. In or about the summer of 1998, the FTC found that ACAM's conduct constitutes false advertising and/or deceptive trade practices. The FTC is attempting to coerce ACAM into signing a consent agreement limiting its ability to publicly support this off-label use of EDTA, by threatening to commence a lengthy and expensive administrative action.
16. The FTC's action against Koren and ACAM has sent a chilling shockwave throughout the medical community. Public advocates like Dr. Rondberg fear that they will be the next subjects of FTC investigatory action.
17. By this action' Plaintiff seeks to establish that the FTC does not have the legal authority to regulate his conduct or the conduct of any other individual or group which does not sell products, but rather advocates positions to the public about particular forms of health care.
18. Plaintiff's position is supported by at least two principles: First, the conduct of Dr. Rondberg, and other public advocates is pure speech, not commercial speech. As such, it is beyond the purview of the FTC. Second, the FTC is attempting to regulate the practice of chiropractic in the Koren case and medicine in the ACAM case. It is the individual states, not the FTC or the federal government which regulate the practice of chiropractic and medicine. The FTC's usurpation of power is particularly troubling in the Koren case, since chiropractors heavily rely on written materials such as those published by Koren and Rondberg to educate their patients.
19. Because of the profound and dangerous ramifications of these two FTC investigations, Plaintiff urges the Court to grant the following relief:
20. Plaintiff repeats and reallege the allegations contained in paragraphs 1 Trough 19 of this Complaint.
21. Plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment that Dr. Terry A. Rondberg's activities as an author, publisher and public advocate of chiropractic constitute pure speech and as such are fully protected by the First Amendment. Plaintiff further seeks a declaration that the FTC does nor have the power, authority or jurisdiction to regulate, control or prohibit Plaintiff or anyone else from expressing their opinions about the benefits of chiropractic or any other method of health care, whether or not FTC officials believe that such statements are true, false, misleading, or unsubstantiated. Plaintiff further seeks a declaration that he can sell, distribute or give away his written materials to any person or entity without interference or oversight of the FTC.
22. Plaintiff repeats and realleges the allegations contained in paragraph 1 through 19 of the complaint.
23. Plaintiff seeks a permanent injunction prohibiting the FTC from initiating an investigation of him or any other individual or entity based on the fact that such individual or entity has publicly advocated a form of health care where such individual or entity does not have a direct financial interest in the rendering of such care to the public.
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff respectfully requests that after the trial of the case, the Court grant the following relief:
(1) A declaratory judgment that Plaintiff's above described activities arc fully protected by the pure speech doctrine of the First Amendment, and hence are not subject to review or limitation, or even investigation by the FTC;
(2) A permanent injunction enjoining the FTC from commencing an investigation against him or any other individual or entity with regard to any of activities which constitute pure speech under the First Amendment, and for such other and further relief as this Court deems just and proper.
Richard A. Jaffe
5 Greenway Plaza, Suite 1710
Houston, Texas 77046
Phone (713) 626-3550
Fax: (713) 626-9420
ATTORNEY FOR PLAINTIFF,
TERRY A. RONDBERG, D.C.
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