Hustling Hope: Trina Health investigation
inewsource spent months investigating a California lawyer and his practices in promoting what he calls a “miraculous” procedure for reversing the complications of diabetes, a condition that affects 30.3 million Americans. Senior healthcare reporter Cheryl Clark began asking questions about the insulin infusion procedure advertised by Trina Health after learning it was being offered in San Diego.
The inewsource mission is accountability journalism, and Clark focused her inquiries on the risk of harm to patients and the cost to the healthcare system.
She talked with scores of people from New York to Miami and from rural Mississippi to Montana — places with Trina Health clinics. She interviewed patients and clinic investors and executives, reviewed patient billing statements, and sought opinions from dozens of researchers and physicians who treat people with diabetes. And she interviewed Trina founder and CEO G. Ford Gilbert at his Sacramento headquarters.
Gilbert was charged with fraud and bribery in Alabama in a federal indictment unsealed on April 2. He pleaded guilty on Jan. 4 to one count of conspiring to bribe a state lawmaker to get Trina treatments covered by BlueCross BlueShield.
Just imagine: A nonsurgical treatment that helps millions of people with complications from diabetes restore vision, repair damaged kidneys, and reverse heart disease and cognitive decline. A treatment that heals wounds in their legs and feet, repairs damage from stroke, and eliminates a common type of diabetic nerve pain called neuropathy.
That’s what lawyer G. Ford Gilbert and his network of Trina Health clinics have been promising with his IV insulin infusions offered through his Sacramento-based company. The Trina CEO calls the procedure “miraculous,” and the first “real change” in treatment for people with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes since the 1921 discovery of insulin.
April 11, 2018
Just about every Tuesday morning around 7:30, John McCreary of Poway can be found waiting for Dr. James Novak’s office to open. Almost always, McCreary said, he’s the first one there.
Novak’s practice is listed as the only one in the San Diego area offering Trina Health’s “Artificial Pancreas Treatment,” a four-hour IV insulin infusion procedure for people with diabetes. Some people like McCreary, 69, who has wrestled with diabetic nerve pain for years, said they think the procedure is working for them.
April 26, 2018
Ron Briggs used to call himself a “good cash cow for the medical industry.” That’s because every few weeks, an ambulance would rush across the rugged, cowboy town of Dillon, Montana, sirens blaring, to revive him from a diabetic coma.
He and his wife, Julie, a strong and mothering woman where Ron is concerned, get choked up when they talk about those days, some four years ago. Those days before they found their “miracle” for treating his disease — the same miracle that would be at the heart of a criminal indictment, embroil them in a lawsuit and lead to their financial ruin.
May 3, 2018
Sacramento lawyer G. Ford Gilbert, the recently indicted founder of the national diabetes network Trina Health, hitched his clinic’s expansion plans to a big national name in organized medicine and health policy: Dr. Jack Lewin.
Lewin was CEO of the California Medical Association for more than 11 years, CEO of the American College of Cardiology for more than five years and president and CEO of the Cardiovascular Research Foundation for four years. He chairs the board of the National Coalition on Health Care in Washington, D.C.
May 25, 2018
A San Diego woman says she was put at risk of hospitalization last year after receiving a series of insulin infusions at Dr. James Novak’s Trina Health clinic in Pacific Beach. The woman and her endocrinologist said the infusions spiked her blood sugar to dangerously high levels.
Meghan Lynch, 35, who has Type 1 diabetes, said she would come home from the treatments and collapse, falling so soundly asleep that neither her two barking dogs nor her roommate could wake her. If her blood sugars had continued to increase, “I would have been hospitalized, definitely,” she said.
inewsource senior healthcare reporter Cheryl Clark and video journalists Megan Wood and Brandon Quester traveled to Dillon, Montana, in late 2017 for an investigation into the national Trina network. In Dillon, Ron and Julie Briggs, county coroners and funeral home owners, took us on a journey that they say cost more than $750,000 and ended in heartache.
The founder of a nationwide chain of diabetes clinics, which inewsource investigated for months, pleaded guilty Friday in federal court to conspiring to bribe a state lawmaker in Alabama.
Sacramento lawyer G. Ford Gilbert used the clinics, including one in San Diego, to offer insulin infusion treatments that he claimed could reverse diabetes complications. Experts inewsource interviewed called the procedure a fraud and a scam. Medicare and some private insurance companies also refused to cover the treatments.