In December, Miami New Times published the third story in a series of investigations into Biogenesis, the Coral Gables anti-aging clinic that had been selling performance-enhancing drugs to a number of pro athletes including Alex Rodriguez. That final story looked into how gaps in state regulation let scores of unlicensed clinic owners like Biogenesis's Tony Bosch sell restricted drugs with zero state oversight.
Now, one state senator is trying to close that loophole.
Sen. Eleanor Sobel, a Democrat from Hollywood, has introduced the "Health Care Clinic Act" in Tallahassee. The bill would bring cash-only clinics like Biogenesis under state regulation and would penalize clinics using doctors whose licenses have been suspended or revoked.
"Just because a clinic takes only cash does not mean it shouldn't be regulated," says Sobel, who is vice chair of the Senate's Health Policy Subcommittee. "We're interested in protecting people's lives, in ensuring clinics are clean and that they employ licensed physicians."
The anti-aging industry has exploded in Florida, with more than 540 clinics statewide. Like Biogenesis, many avoid oversight by declining to take insurance money; Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration won't inspect such cash-only businesses.
Biogenesis' owner, Tony Bosch, was not a licensed doctor, though customers say he presented himself as one. Clinics like Bosch's aren't required to list a medical director, and anyone can own one. New Times found several either owned by or closely tied to convicted felons.
Sobel's staff members began work on legislation after New Times published its story and have consulted with Porter Fischer, the whistleblower who leaked documents from Biogenesis showing the extent of Bosch's drug sales to pro athletes.
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The bill would bring some much-needed regulation to the industry, Sobel says. "In terms of the public safety issue, it's a perfectly legitimate reason to inspect these clinics."
The bill could get its first hearing in early March.