The Department of Justice announced that it has arrested Juli A. Mazi, 41, of Napa for, “one count of wire fraud and one count of false statements related to health care matters”. While the arrest is encouraging, it also highlights the incongruous double standard that currently exists in medicine.
Although this is not stated in the DoJ announcement, Mazi is a naturopath who practices as a primary care physician in California. Her practice includes “classic homeopathy”, which is something we have discussed at length on SBM. In short, homeopathic potions are made from fanciful ingredients but often diluted to such an extent that no original ingredients remain. They are therefore mostly just magic water, claimed to contain the “energy” of its previous contents. If that weren’t enough, extensive clinical trials have demonstrated that homeopathic magic water doesn’t work for any indication that has been tested.
What caught the attention of the DoJ was a tip that Mazi was selling homeopathic pellets as a substitute for COVID vaccination. As the announcement states:
This defendant allegedly defrauded and endangered the public by preying on fears and spreading misinformation about FDA-authorized vaccinations, while also peddling fake treatments that put people’s lives at risk. Even worse, the defendant allegedly created counterfeit COVID-19 vaccination cards and instructed her customers to falsely mark that they had received a vaccine, allowing them to circumvent efforts to contain the spread of the disease,
First, she was spreading misinformation about the FDA-authorized COVID vaccines. Obviously, in the middle of a pandemic, especially when we are bumping up against vaccine misinformation in terms of the vaccination program, such actions are horrific. But of course, Mazi is not the only one spreading such misinformation. As we pointed out previously, it was found that 65% of misinformation on Facebook and Twitter is coming from just 12 individuals – the “Disinformation Dozen”. That, however, is apparently insufficient to garner the attention of the DoJ. I understand that the DoJ has no authority to do anything in these cases, because they have technically not broken any laws (and that, of course, is the problem).
The DoJ statement also cited Mazi for “peddling fake treatments that put people’s lives at risk”. So – just like almost the entire alternative medicine industry and a huge part of the supplement industry. How is Mazi unlike any other naturopath? Anyone selling homeopathy, acupuncture, untested herbal remedies, energy medicine, or most things labeled “alternative” are “peddling fake treatments”.
What really makes Mazi different is the next bit – giving counterfeit COVID-19 vaccinations cards to her customers. Tellingly, the DoJ considers this to be “even worse” that peddling fake treatments that risk people’s lives. But is it really? I would consider selling fake treatments to be at the top of my list. From the DoJ perspective, the counterfeit cards is what makes this a legal case at all. If Mazi had just skipped that part, she could have continued selling fake homeopathic pellets to her customers, risking their lives, without any legal entanglements. We know this is true because there are countless alternative practitioners doing that right now, just as there are others spreading misinformation about vaccines.
There is also some concern about what is actually in those homeopathic pellets. Mazi claims they have a tiny part of the COVID-19. Hopefully, that’s a lie. If they were prepared from infected source material, that would be a legitimate concern (but this did not crack the DoJ’s top three). Homeopathic potions are not always harmless, sometimes they actually contain stuff. Let’s hope this is not one of those times.
Mazi instructs her customers that they should take 2-4 pellets, but the amount doesn’t really matter. You can give the same dose to infants. It’s all magic energy anyway, so silly things like dosing are inconsequential. She claims without evidence that this will produce lifelong immunity to COVID, because of the magic energy that will teach your immune system to fight the virus.
In the announcement the DoJ touts their “Health Care Fraud Strike Force”, which they indicate has charged individuals who have “billed the Medicare program for nearly $19 billion”. Again, they give away the real focus of this task force, Medicare fraud. So if you just charge your customers cash, you can fly under the DoJ radar.
My real point in discussing this case is to point out the hypocrisy of the whole situation. The government often makes a big show of cracking down on health fraud, but not for selling fake treatments with unproven claims. Cases typically involve some other kind of fraud. Meanwhile we allow, even celebrate, the increasing existence in our healthcare system and marketplace of unproven products and practitioners who are overtly not science-based. We allow practitioners to sell unproven, often blatantly unscientific, treatments and products with unproven health claims. Homeopathy is legal and has an FDA stamp of approval. Naturopaths are licensed by many states.
Now, during the worst pandemic in the last century, we are seeing what this brings us. Anti-vaccine disinformation is rife within the alternative medicine community. Practitioners will sell fake treatments for COVID – that is what they are often licensed to do. Homeopathy is literally 100% health fraud, and yet we sanction its existence. It is sold alongside real medicine in pharmacies. Our tolerance of what previous generations considered health fraud, our acceptance of rebranding fraud as “alternative”, “complementary”, or “integrative” is biting us hard.
You can’t water down the science-based standard of care in medicine, carve out exceptions, weaken regulations, and allow unscientific practitioners to spread dangerous misinformation, attack science-based institutions and undermine experts, and then complain when they do exactly that, just because we are in a pandemic.
This should be a wake-up call. People often ask “what’s the harm” of allowing what are essentially placebo treatments to thrive. This is the harm. Our science-based infrastructure has been devastated, and now we are literally dying from medical misinformation.