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Court Imposes Sanctions on AMS for its Pursuit of Dr. Walker

Dr. Christopher Walker, UroGyn Specialists

Dr. Christopher Walker, UroGyn Specialists

Mesh Medical Device News Desk, November 28, 2016 ~ He has been profiled by Mesh News Desk (also an advertiser at one time) and DrugWatch. Urogynecologist, Dr. Christopher Walker is considered one of the more well-known and competent mesh-removal doctors in the country. (See MND (here and here) and DrugWatch. (here).

But this year he’s be suffered a setback to his 30 to 40 mesh-removal a month schedule. 

Even though he is not being sued and is considered a non-party, Dr. Walker and his staff have been aggressively pursued by mesh maker American Medical Systems (AMS) through a series of depositions. The company believes a host of middlemen are profiting  by encouraging women to obtain unnecessary mesh-removal surgeries that up the stakes  on the mesh settlements.

Dr Walker did surgeries on two out-of-state patients who obtained legal funding to undergo mesh-removal surgeries.

*Court Update*  On December 6, AMS and the doctor agreed to financial sanctions to be imposed on AMS for going beyond the parameters of discovery in questioning Dr. Walker and his staff.  (Doc #31 Case 2:14-cv-28142) and for violating a Protective Order.

The sanctions will cover the cost of Dr. Walker’s attorney who filed a protective order and a motion for sanctions.  (Doc #34).

Orlando attorney, Carlos Burruezo, who represents Dr. Walker tells MND, “AMS has been very aggressive with discovery requests that have gone above and beyond the scope of a treating physician. It was beyond the parameters of the underlying product liability case. The sanctions should mean they are done with him and it should end any involvement.”

Payments will be made by AMS within the week and Dr. Walker reserves the right to petition the Court if the terms of the settlement are not satisfied.

 

ALLEGATIONS 

These are the allegations according to AMS – medical marketers get leads on women who have received mesh implants and refer them to litigation funding companies then to doctors who perform medically unnecessary mesh removal explant surgeries at a significant markup.

A concierge facilitator, makes travel arrangements and everyone, it’s alleged, gets a kickback from the litigation funding company.

The woman receives her surgery even though she may have had insurance to cover the surgery closer to home. The alleged pitch is she will get removal surgery from one of the few in the country who specialize in the procedure.

The downside is a 39% interest rate on her loan. AMS alleges the often unsophisticated consumer pays top dollar for her care. The company believes up to 80 women may have been solicited this way.

Some, AMS believes, had no mesh complications, but are convinced to undergo the knife then sue the manufacturer, joining the 20,000 defective product lawsuits currently pending against AMS in federal litigation.

Even though there is no indication of wrongdoing, Dr. Walker was deposed by AMS lawyers last May concerning surgeries on two out-of-state women – Ms. Greenier and Ms. Elliott. Both were allegedly told not to use insurance and that a concierge, Surgical Assistants, would take care of their travel needs to Orlando.

BACKGROUND STORY 

For years now, mesh maker, American Medical Systems (AMS) has pursued these allegations of wrongdoing, which Dr. Walker denies.

Instead, working at his UroGyn Specialists of Florida, he has been one of the more vocal doctors speaking out against the use of pelvic mesh as a first-line treatment and offering women a complete or partial transvaginal mesh removal as well as non-mesh treatments for incontinence and prolapse.

After AMS was sold to Endo International and renamed Astora Women’s Health, the company couldn’t find a buyer and finally closed its doors last March to “reduce the potential for product liability related to future mesh implants.” See the MND story here.

Ironically, for a company facing the financial weight of litigation, AMS has been paying a legion of high-priced corporate lawyers to fight its perceived enemies.

Barbara Binis, Reed Smith for AMS

Barbara Binis, Reed Smith for AMS

Led by Barbara Binis, of Reed Smith of Philadelphia, she and her team have been working for years to uncover the workings of various alleged illicit schemes to inflate the damage claims of women implanted with the AMS transvaginal mesh.

 

 

DR WALKER’S DEPOSITION

AMS lawyer Ms Binis deposed Dr. Walker on May 3, 2016 in Orlando.

Dr. Walker spoke of his Hippocratic oath as a surgeon to first do no harm. He’s removed mesh from nine women for no charge he told Ms. Binis.

dr walker high res cropped“At the end of the day I consider myself a humanitarian. These are human beings who are suffering.

“Because they have no money and I have a skill set, then, you know, it’s my duty to help.”

That wasn’t really the line of questioning she was pursuing.

Dr. Walker says he’s had three women who have come to him with no mesh in their body, convinced it was causing complications. Instead of performing surgery, he turned them away.

Other women have no clinical need to have mesh removed, he said.

Binis pursued how the Orlando business works in a complicated, lengthy back and forth.

Surgery through Med/Surge can run $5,000. One hospital lowered Dr. Walker’s surgical rate to $3,500.

Other surgeries are funded by LawCash, a legal funder, which sends the office a check for $25,000 per patient. LawCash charges interest to the patient and will collect from her settlement from AMS.

After services are paid Dr. Walker collects about $10,000 per patient, which is not out of line with what other mesh removal doctors charge.

Patient Greenier “had never complained to any doctor about pelvic pain for nine years,” Binis stated in Walker’s deposition, so how did you know she needed removal?

Because her pain was ten out of ten, he answered, and she demonstrated evidence of a chronic inflammatory process.

Binis: “Were you aware that some of these funding contracts come with a 39% annual interest rate compounded monthly?”

Walker: “I don’t know those issues, mam.”

Binis asks why were $500 surgeries not the norm while some were $3,500?  No one can expect a surgeon to collect $500 on a very complication time consuming surgical procedures, said Dr. Walker.

Binis is very argumentative.

Binis: “What kind of service were you giving that was worth seven times more than what you would have done had the patient come to you in a regular practice?”

Walker: “I’m certainly not aware of any surgeon who can accept $500, that’s less than what I pay my plumber,” said Dr. Walker in response.

AMS wanted to depose office personnel about the cost of surgeries. After one deposition, it sought another. That’s when he filed a motion for a Protective Order and to Quash the Subpoena.

Lawyers for Walker argued the subpoenas are “unreasonably cumulative, duplicative, unduly burdensome and harassing and that the new inquiries do not relate to the explant of Ms. Greenier and Elliott and instead the non-parties suspect “that AMS’s intent in seeking further discovery from (the CFO) is to build a case against Dr. Walker, not to investigate any of the plaintiffs’ damage claims in these actions.”

According to a November 8 filing, (Doc #31 here), Magistrate Judge Cheryl Eifert denied the further deposition and instead allowed sanctions to be filed against AMS for overreaching a protective order.

Ms Binis is not done. She has filed notices to depose seven women in Florida before the end of the year, as well as Women’s Health Center of South Florida and Beth Israel Surgical Center of Broward Outpatient Center.

Ironically, her law firm, Reed Smith, is facing accusations of questionable practices of its own, as reported by ReedSmithWatch.com,  which says partners, including Binis, bill around $700 an hour. ##

 

 

 

 

 

24 Comments

  1. Lisa says:

    Not at all surprised! After my experience with Dr Walker and his office. I finally got some good insurance thru work and was anxious to see him but his office said they didn’t take ANY insurance because most of them would not pay for mesh problems. They said the only was he would see me was cash or Med Surg loan. They even had someone contact me and try to sell me a loan. I ended up paying out of pocket to see him cause I was in so much pain and had some mesh expulsion problems I needed taken care of.

    The worst part of the office exam…. apparently they didn’t read or write down why I was there. And when I was on the exam table and they found out I had mesh, they couldn’t get me out of there fast enough. I was still in shock when I got to my car, THATS when I broke into tears. Worst experience I’ve ever had with a doctor. They made me feel like I was carrying a deadly virus!

    I asked to set appt with Dr. Walker, but when I got there Dr. Mushonga saw me instead. But my initial exam was with the PA.

  2. Angry says:

    Ladies I can only speak for myself and also know other women who see Dr Walker. Never have I been treated any other way the totally professional care from him during too many visits to count. I do not think I would be here today if it was not for the quality and seriousness of my complications. I no were any of these accusations presented to me nor the ladies I have come to know so well. I feel that because he stood up and would not let the big pharmaceutical giants slap duct tape across his mouth like was done to us women, this is what he now faces. As we all sadly come to realize, these lawyers will stop at nothing to pull anyone down who gets in their way. As for myself I will take this information with a grain of salt until other wise is proven. I also will continue having him treat me. As far as I am concerned he is a life saver.

  3. HurtForLife says:

    So true! It’s so sad that most docs put the pharmaceutical companies first instead of their patients. Dr Walker is one of the few that has done the right thing!

  4. Linda says:

    I was treated by Dr. Walker any he was the best. No other Dr. would do anything except one that examined me then pulled on the attachments like a rubber band. OUCH!! was what I said. This is after pain management shots down there. I am still so thankful for the support and care of Dr. Walker. I drove from St. Petersburg to Orlando to have my surgery. He even told me the mesh had been placed too tight and it had curved one of my pelvic bones! I complained about pain within 10 days of the implant. But it took 7 years to get someone to take me seriously to get it removed. It also caused numerous UTI’s that have to be treated by IV in my case.

    • Cathrine P says:

      Linda,
      How did you know the mesh being too tight curved your pelvis bone.
      What kind of test did you get in order to pin point this issue?

  5. Mary Pat says:

    Obscene that AMS is allowed to waste money attempting to put blame on good and honest doctors when AMS should be issuing settlements to their mesh injured plaintiffs. AMS is rotten to the core! Evil is the only word that fits. Everyone, please pray for justice. This is so wrong!

  6. Disgusted says:

    Unbelievable. Attack the doctor that stands up for the injured. I wonder if AMS has considered attacking doctor Raz as well? We know how hard it is to get mesh out once it is in. They want us to stay local with our surgical consults, that is actually dangerous. I had a partial removal and I believe my complications are worse because of this. Dr. Raz is right, get it all out at once. Best chance for recovery. To act like any doctor can remove mesh is irresponsible and revolting.

  7. Lordhelpus says:

    “WEALTH OVER HEALTH” makes a nice poster doesn’t it…

  8. Sea says:

    An added thought ….Doctors are pursued to put vaginal mesh in ….by companies plus perhaps more ….but why don’t they pursue the education of taking it out ????? Thinking out of the box here …

    • Jane Akre says:

      Sea- Mesh was not intended to come out. It is a permanent implant. Interesting- since there were no assurances of safety and efficacy before it was marketed. Companies predicted there would be problems but again, no safe way to take it out, so there was no training to do so. Sounds like a reckless disregard for patients…

  9. Kitty says:

    be careful of pro mesh hippocrits

  10. W says:

    I agree Dr walker is a great doctor but I was called numerous times by a woman in his office. He may not have known these calls were going out, but they were. I do think he has been a great advocate and friend to mesh injured women, and is being unfairly targeted.

  11. Aida Castellano says:

    I am so thankful to Dr. Walker and for all that he has done to help me. I went to see Dr. Walker in May of 2012. I had been experiencing terrible pain due to a bladder mesh implant that had been done by another doctor. I had constant “pinching” or “poking” pain in the right side and was having severe incontinence issues and pain during sex. Dr. Walker spent almost an hour with my husband and I during my first appointment. He listened carefully, answered all of our questions and explained the different treatment options. He was very caring and reassured me that he would do everything he could to help me. Since my symptoms were ongoing, I finally decided to remove the mesh. I remember waking from the surgery and for the first time in months, I didn’t have the pain or the poking. I remember my husband thanking him for all that he had done. We were so surprised when Dr. Walker told him “not to thank him, but to thank God. That he was merely an instrument and that he prayed before every surgery for God to guide his hands and to help heal his patients.” I have remained under Dr. Walker’s care because the mesh caused extensive damage to my bladder. I can’t even remember how many times I cried and told him that I just had to accept that my condition would never improve. Dr. Walker said that he would not give up until I got better and he held true to his word. He has helped me so much. Unfortunately, I have so many other health issues and I have many other doctors. I can tell you that Dr. Walker is the very best doctor by far that I have ever had. He truly cares about his patients and their well-being. I thank God for Dr. Walker and he is a true blessing to me and so many of his patients.

  12. Kitty says:

    I just saw a commercial on TV for “Apex One” it is a device to “cure” urinary stress incontinence. It is a self use invasive device.

  13. MarieAnn says:

    Dr Walker is a wonderful man and
    doctor. He has a servant’s heart and treats his patients with the utmost respect. He has helped me so much. I had my mesh removed at UCLA, but live in FL. I found Dr Walker through a friend. He is my follow-up urogyn. I see him for “maintenance”. As a mesh injured woman… you need specialized medical care for the rest of your life. Dr Walker has assured me that he will take care of me. He’s been such a blessing. His office staff is very professional. My health insurance is always billed accordingly. God bless this doctor and his staff too. He always puts his patients first!

  14. Lorna says:

    AMS and their defense attorney’s should hang their heads in shame for what they did to victimize innocent women all in the name of making money….. not small money either… billions of dollars in profit over the years that they knew the mesh implants were not safe and not suitable to be implanted in the body of women like myself.

    I could not have sex with my husband for 5 years and 3 months….. like the other victims of mesh my life changed and quite frankly I thought it ended until I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Christopher Walker. The day my husband and I met him he immediately gave us comfort. Not only did he exude confidence that he could help … he did not make me any false promises. He spent over 1 hour with us during my first visit to his well-run office.

    I will be honest…. it took me some time to get an appointment with him but let me tell you it was worth the wait…. He has an amazing compassionate bedside manner; was easy to talk to and above all gave all the credit for his outstanding surgical results to God. He mentioned he is only one of the members of his team… he embraced a team approach and was extremely humble. While waiting for this amazing surgeon, his waiting room was filled with patients from across the country. One lady was there from Kentucky and she told us how this man changed her life in a positive way.

    For us, there was never a discussion centered on money… NEVER… it was about trying to figure a way to help me and really help us as a couple. His staff are equally amazing and compassionate. For AMS to suggest this man is trying to make money from mesh victims they have it wrong. After seeing multiple physicians prior, Dr. Walker was my last hope and he truly has through God given us a new lease on life.

    The questions I have for AMS and Ms. Binis are:

    1) Do you not think the money you are spending to hurt innocent physicians who are advocates for mesh victims should be paid to the MESH Victims and not to pay legal bills at the rate of $700 per hour?
    2) Has Ms. Binis ever done anything for free?
    3) As a woman….does Ms. Binis not feel a sense of betrayal to women or is she only concerned about fattening herself and her bank account?
    4) How much money has Ms. Binis personally made from this case?
    5) Will Ms. Binis being a woman and apparently such a paragon of virtue consider giving over her legal fees to a charitable fund to help the women who have been affected by the mesh?
    6) If AMS was innocent then why have they settled so many cases? If innocent… fight to the end…
    7) Does any AMS corporate Exec have their wife, sister or friend implanted with this horrible product? If yes…. Anyone with a complication? That would allow them to learn compassion is not something learned in a boardroom or while reading profit and loss statements… it is something a human being is born with.

    I want to thank Dr. Walker and staff for going above my expectations and for allowing me to enjoy my husband and my life again. I sincerely hope and pray AMS and Ms. Binis will seek forgiveness from God for their lies and deceit and will focus on doing to the right thing for us the VICTIMS.

  15. sharon s says:

    Dr. Walker was a GOD send for me. He has a wonderful bedside manner. I am a 71 year old retired nurse. Never in my 30 years of nursing have I ever worked with a better, more caring doctor. Doctor Walker went to bat for me when my insurance was going to take him off being a covered doctor. His faith in God was also a blessing. He is still working on my bladder problems. Dr.Walker told me we would fix my problems.

  16. Aida C says:

    I sent a comment in more than a month ago and it was never added to the comments link. So are you only posting comments that talk negatively about Dr. Walker? Shame on you for not allowing REAL patients to comment on how much he has helped his patients!!

    • Jane Akre says:

      Shame on you for your assumptions….. I post all comments unless they are profane and rude, I will even post your comment. Try the Search Bar, put in your name and your comments will appear…. dispelling your accusation about comments disappearing. You’re welcome

      • Aida C says:

        Jane, I am glad that you do post all comments. I had checked and made an honest mistake, I am sorry.

        I do take ownership that my comment may have been accusatory that there was something iniquitous about how comments were posted on your blog.

        I do apologize if it came across to youas a personal attack, that was not my intent.

        Unfortunately, in today’s fast-paced world where every thing is done in real time, we sometimes lose sight that there are real people with feelings behind these blogs. But sometimes those same bloggers forget that there are real people reading those blogs.

        If you take a moment to walk in my shoes, perhaps you might understand why I was so frustrated when I thought my comment wasn’t posted.

        It is very hard to read the spewing of venomous accusations about Dr Walker and how he has “been profiled”.

        Yes, Dr. Walker is removing many mesh implants but that is because statistics show that as many as 20 percent of some mesh implants are causing significant health issues and must be removed.

        Dr. Walker is one of the few skilled and conscientious surgeons that are able to do it. He lives tireless trying to give hope and provide healing to patients such as myself and others in trying to repair the unimaginable damage these implants have caused.

        Some people seem to think that by libeling and defaming Dr. Walker, his reputation will somehow be tarnished.

        That couldn’t be further from the truth. Honestly the only thing that is happening is that he is becoming a most distinguishable and formidable opponent to Big Pharma. Now thanks to all the free publicity, many more women will come to learn of Dr. Walker and will seek him for treatment.

        I truly hope from the bottom of my heart that he is able to help them as much as he has helped me and the countless amounts of patients that I talk with at his office.

        Thank you in advance Jane, for posting this comment.

        • Jane Akre says:

          All is Good Aida and you are right- Dr. Walker is a hero…. I think most people agree to that, except maybe AMS…take care..

  17. Waiting 2 Die says:

    I used to think Dr. W was soooo great too! He did my “removal” and then did another repair surgery months later. He promised me 50% less pain after the last surgery but instead I got more like 50% more pain. I was also left with a prolapse which I didn’t have before and was told by him it was only inflammation, then another doctor in his practice told me she thought it was my hymen….really?!?!?! After still having major problems and pain I decided to make the trip to see Dr. V this week…. and I was told the devastating news that over half my mesh is still inside my body, he did NOT remove all of my mesh, he only removed 2 cm of mesh in the middle…, if he said he did to any of you, I would suggest you double and triple check if you are still having issues and are concerned. And not only is most of my mesh left, but because I’ve had so many other surgeries, the risks of going back in to remove the rest are are far too many. To everyone who has had a hand in all of this, I’ll be sitting at the right hand of my Lord come judgment day while He passes judgement down on you, and all those millions that you have gotten for all of this here on earth…..WON’T GET YOU OUT OF IT!!

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