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NEWARK – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today announced that a licensed pharmacist and owner of a Monmouth County pharmacy has agreed to cease and desist from holding himself out as a physician, after an undercover investigation found that he had offered an unproven natural treatment for COVID-19 and advised an individual to purchase vitamins and enzyme supplements instead of the medications prescribed by her doctor.
In a Consent Order, Eric J. Sauer, who owns The Natural Pharmacy in Ocean Township, has been ordered by the Board of Medical Examiners to stop engaging in conduct or utilizing any title that implies he is a medical doctor or has the ability to practice alternative medicine in New Jersey.
“Only individuals with a medical license and the required training may practice medicine in New Jersey,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Those who engage in the practice of medicine without the required credentials put the public health at risk and should expect a forceful response from the State.”
The complaint that the Attorney General filed with the Board in July 2020 alleged that Sauer, who does not have a license to practice medicine in New Jersey and has no doctoral degree, was identified on his pharmacy’s website and voicemail as “Dr. Sauer” and as a naturopathic physician. State law prohibits individuals not licensed by the Board from using titles that imply they are practitioners of medicine.
The complaint also alleged that Sauer engaged in numerous acts constituting the unlicensed practice of medicine, including reviewing medical histories, interpreting blood results, and counseling patients. Dr. Sauer told an undercover investigator from the Enforcement Bureau of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs (DCA) that her doctor-prescribed medications would cause cancer and that she should instead take the “natural alternatives” that he was selling.
“This case demonstrates why licensing laws are in place to protect the health and safety of the public. Patients should never have to worry about whether a professional offering them medical advice is qualified to do so,” said Paul R. Rodríguez, Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “By selling expensive interventions based on unqualified advice, an unlicensed practitioner harms not only a consumer’s wallet, but potentially their health if they are advised to stop taking needed prescriptions. I commend the Board for their commitment to protect the public, and taking action to stop Sauer before he causes serious harm.”
According to the State’s complaint, Sauer charged the Division’s undercover investigator $175 for a consultation in June 2019, during which Sauer referred to himself as “Dr. Eric,” provided a saliva test for $200, and advised the investigator to substitute her doctor-prescribed medications for his recommended enzyme supplements for an additional $261.55.
Sauer appeared before a committee of the Board in February 2020, to discuss concerns that he was engaging in the unlicensed practice of medicine. Sauer admitted to using the titles “Dr.”, “NMD”, and “Naturopathic Physician” on his website and in consultations, and to reviewing bloodwork, recommending over the counter saliva tests, and counseling patients to take vitamin and enzyme supplements.
In response, Sauer agreed to modify his website to remove the titles “Dr.”, “NMD”, and “Naturopathic Physician.”
During a follow-up investigation, which included an April 2020 phone consultation regarding preventative treatment for COVID-19, the undercover investigator was given a list of eleven supplements and the dosages for both healthy individuals and those symptomatic for COVID-19, according to the State’s complaint. The quoted cost for the recommended supplements was approximately $320, including shipping costs. The complaint also alleges that when the investigator inquired about treatment for a relative experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, Sauer did not advise her that the relative should contact a licensed physician for medical care.
In addition to changing his practices, the Consent Order requires Sauer to pay $29,880 in investigative costs over the course of three years. In the event Sauer violates any of the terms of the Order, he will have to pay a $30,000 penalty that is currently suspended.
Deputy Attorney General Daniel Evan Leef Hewitt of the Professional Boards Prosecution Section in the Division of Law’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement Practice Group represented the State. Investigator April Amisson with the Enforcement Bureau within the Division of Consumer Affairs conducted the investigation.
Patients who believe that they have been treated by a licensed health care professional in an inappropriate manner can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 to receive a complaint form by mail.
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The mission of the Division of Consumer Affairs, within the Department of Law and Public Safety, is to protect the public from fraud, deceit, misrepresentation and professional misconduct in the sale of goods and services in New Jersey through education, advocacy, regulation and enforcement. The Division pursues its mission through its 51 professional and occupational boards that oversee 720,000 licensees in the state, its Regulated Business section that oversees 60,000 NJ registered businesses, as well as through its Office of Consumer Protection, Bureau of Securities, Charities Registration section, Office of Weights and Measures, and Legalized Games of Chance section.