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Feds Drop Investigation Of Alternative Doctor

Associated Press

An alternative doctor who was suspected of promoting various unproven natural-health therapies is no longer under investigation by the federal government.

The U.S. Attorney’s office in Seattle announced Friday that it has dropped the criminal investigation into Dr. Jonathan Wright that culminated in a May 1992 raid of his clinic.

Wright, owner of the Tahoma Clinic in Kent, was out of the state and could not be immediately reached for comment.

The raid on Wright’s office, dubbed the “Vitamin B bust,” became symbolic for many who believe that the Food and Drug Administration has a bias against alternative health care and its providers.

Wright filed a lawsuit against the FDA and the Justice Department for unlawful search and seizure of equipment in his clinic following the raid in which armed officers burst through the doors of his clinic, some with their weapons drawn.

“The staff was traumatized,” said Alex Schauss, head of Wright’s legal defense fund and president of a natural health advocacy group in Tacoma called Citizens for Health.

The suit was dismissed in 1993 when a federal judge ruled that continuing it might compromise the criminal investigation. It’s not clear whether Wright plans to file suit again, though his lawyer said it wasn’t likely.

“This hopefully ends the persecution of Dr. Wright,” said Jonathan Emord, an attorney for Wright in Washington, D.C. “Now I think he’s just going to do what he does best, which is continue on with his practice.”

Susan Barnes, spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Seattle, said the federal government plans to return the items and most of the $100,000 worth of medicine seized by federal agents.

“It’s not uncommon for complex cases to take years,” Barnes said. “The whole idea is to investigate and decide if there’s criminal conduct.”

The Seattle office of the FDA, which had alleged criminal conduct by Wright, declined to comment and referred all questions to Barnes.

Wright was accused of using injectable vitamins and an electrical device for diagnosing allergies, to the point where the government believed patients were placed at risk.

A pharmacist affiliated with Wright, Raymond Suen of For Your Health Pharmacy, was accused of illegally manufacturing and distributing steroids, nutrients, vitamins and other substances for use as prescription medications. The FDA believed some of these products were contaminated by mold as well.

The state Board of Pharmacy closed Suen’s operation and the U.S. attorney’s office filed charges against him for violating federal drug laws. Suen closed his business and pleaded guilty to the charges.

U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, has promised to hold hearings on 30 similar cases of federal investigations of alternative practitioners, including one involving a Houston doctor.

FDA officials have denied there is some conspiracy within the agency to harass alternative practitioners. The FDA recently stepped up its regulatory oversight of natural health products following several incidents in which such products caused people to become severely ill.

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