Medical lab owners, doctors plead guilty to bogus lab specimen scheme

Newcomers to Shayna’s List often find it difficult to believe that the veterinary industry could have pockets (or worse) of deceptive, if not outright corrupt practices.  Upon perusing some of the articles here, and digging a bit deeper, they usually begin to realize that there is something seriously amiss in a profession that enjoys a virtually unblemished reputation for honesty and compassion.

The medical profession enjoys a similar reputation, nowhere moreso than in regards to the doctors in one’s hometown.

But if one lives in New Jersey, they may have heard of a massive scam among doctors who were bribed to prescribe unnecessary bloodwork, for the benefit of Biodiagnostic Laboratory Services LLC.  Until this disclosure, one of the doctors was heralded for his many charitable and civic virtues.

According to Law360 (emphasis added):

A New Jersey doctor pled guilty on Wednesday to charges that he accepted tens of thousands of dollars in bribes to refer patients to Biodiagnostic Laboratory Services LLC, part of a yearslong scam run by the lab and its president, according to prosecutors.
Dr. Glenn R. Leslie pled guilty to one count of criminal bribery before U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler. Leslie admitted that from August 2010 to December 2011, BLS paid him $5,000 a month for his promise to refer patient blood specimens to the lab. The $85,000 in bribes generated about $380,000 for BLS from private patients and Medicare, according to prosecutors.

Leslie is the 21st participant who has pled guilty in BLS’ scheme bribing doctors for millions of dollars to send business to BLS, which took in more than $100 million from Medicare and private insurance companies, according to prosecutors. Including Leslie, 11 employees or associates of BLS and 10 physicians have pled guilty.

“Dr. Leslie is extremely remorseful for his conduct in accepting illegal referral fees in exchange for sending blood tests to the lab,” Leslie’s attorney, Michael J. Beatrice, told Law360, “His service to the community as a physician, as chamber of commerce president, as police physician and in other charitable endeavors has otherwise been exemplary.” [...]

Federal agents in April also arrested BLS owner David Nicoll, his brother Scott Nicoll, who was a senior BLS employee, and Craig Nordman, a BLS employee and the CEO of Advantech Sales LLC, an entity used by BLS to make illegal payments, in connection with the bribery scheme. They pled guilty in June to one count of conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statute and the Federal Travel Act and one count of money laundering, according to authorities.

The Nicolls admitted to using shell entities to bribe doctors with cash or lease, service or consulting agreements. The goal was to drum up blood sample referrals for BLS and convince doctors to order unnecessary tests on those specimens, according to authorities. To sweeten the deal, some doctors received a fee per test to entice them to send more business to BLS, the defendants acknowledged.

David and Scott Nicoll respectively agreed to forfeit $50 million and $25 million. described how the owners of Biodiagnostic Laboratory Services got to live large as a result of the pathological fraud they were able to perpetrate, thanks to doctors’ complicity:

He dropped $154,000 at a gentlemen’s club and tooled around in Ferraris, Corvettes and private jets. He bought a $700,000 home for his “female companion” and nearly $400,000 worth of tickets to sporting events, authorities say.

That’s how David Nicoll, president and part-owner of Parsippany-based Biodiagnostic Laboratory Services, allegedly spent some of the ill-gotten gains he received from bribing doctors to refer patients and prescribe unnecessary tests, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said this afternoon. [...]

“People depend on their doctors to make medical decisions about care based solely on medical need,” Fishman said during a press conference in Newark. “When doctors order extra tests or choose particular labs in exchange for cash, they abandon their obligation to their patients … No patients should have to worry that their doctors’ loyalty and judgement have been bought by a salesman trying to make a buck.”


Do you still think that the veterinary industry is somehow immune to these kinds of scams?   If so, then you really need to rethink whether or not you are prepared to be an effective dog parent.

On a happier note (for the honest, and the taxpayer), David Nicoll’s prized collection of ultra-rare American muscle cars is going to be auctioned off on September 12, 2014, to help reimburse victims of the scam – including Medicare.   One example: a Plymouth Road Runner Superbird 426 Hemi, with an estimated value of $150,000.  Say buh-bye, Mr. Nicoll:





British vet: “Do vets overcharge?”

That question was the title of an article by Joe Inglis, DVM, a British veterinarian.  His answer:

Vets overcharging is a very common concern amongst pet owners, and one that as a vet I am really worried about too – I hear enough stories of owners feeling ripped off to know there is a real problem out there. I have also experienced a culture of what can only be described as profiteering in several practices over my years as a vet, where vets are pressured into recommending additional tests or procedures on very dubious clinical grounds simply to push up profits for the practice owners.

I remember in one of the first practices I worked in being told not to dispense courses of tablets on a first consultation, even if I felt it was the right thing to do, because it was much more profitable to get the owner back for a second appointment and then dispense the treatment. I felt very uncomfortable with this approach back then, and ever since I have become more and more angry at the way in which practices are increasingly focussed on profits rather than pets.

My view is that vets should do what is right for the pet and pet owner not what is right for the vet and their bank balance. Of course vets have to earn a living and I’ve got nothing against practices operating in a profitable manner, but I don’t believe that this can be only be done by vets acting more like pushy used car sales people than caring professionals. I think there is another way, where vets prioritise working with the owner for the best outcome for their pets, taking into account the circumstances and views of the owners rather than simply trying to squeeze as much money as possible out of them.

Later in the article, he cites (and provides proof of) another vet ripping off a patient for nearly $3,000 (US; £1692) for performing an extensive array of diagnostic tests on a dog for… an upset stomach.   Did that vet read this article, in what claims to be the most widely-read veterinary magazine in America, advising vets that 13-25% of their annual revenue should be from diagnostics – and that figure should grow on an annual basis (discussed here)?

Read the rest of Dr. Inglis’s article here.

Of course, there is no blanket answer to the question he asks.  Like physicians, auto mechanics and chefs, all practitioners are different.  But when one considers the data contained on Shayna’s List, and correlates it to the many other sources of similar data on the Web, the fact that overcharging has become a standard practice in many veterinary clinics in the U.S., in Canada, and in England, becomes inescapable.





Is severe under-capacity the reason behind vet scams to boost revenue?

“Under-capacity” is probably not a phrase that comes up in your daily conversation.

But if you’re a dog parent who’s heard some of the growing plethora of stories about scams that veterinarians engage in to boost their revenues, here’s some data regarding capacity measures at veterinary clinics that adds a new hint of the motivation behind these scams.

In 2013 the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) released an article that summarizes the findings of a study that showed there are about 11% more veterinarians on the market than demand would require.  Key excerpt (emphasis added):

[T]he report indicates that the supply of veterinarians in the United States in 2012 was 90,200, and that supply exceeded the demand for veterinary services by about 11,250 full-time equivalent veterinarians.

The excess capacity estimated in the report does not mean that 11,250 veterinarians were unemployed during the study period, but that 12.5 percent of veterinarians’ capacity to provide services was going unused. If current conditions continue, the study projects that this is likely to persist into the foreseeable future.

A veterinary workforce survey used as a part of the study asked respondent veterinarians working in clinical practice to characterize their local veterinary market and their practices’ capacity and productivity. Fifty-three percent of those surveyed said that they believed they were working at less than full capacity.

See the full report, “2013 U.S. Veterinary Workforce Study: Modeling Capacity Utilization,” here.

The result is that the average veterinarian’s annual earnings is falling – sharply.  From page 9 of the report:

Declining vet annual earnings

And a chart (from page 12) that shows 53% of veterinarians claim their clinics are not working at full capacity:

Vet clinic working at less than capacity

No one wants to believe that veterinarians would do anything except provide only the services and counsel that your dog really needs for her happiness, health and longevity – right?  I certainly didn’t.

But as the deeply-researched and documented articles on Shayna’s List show, there is no longer any doubt that many veterinarians – not just the oddball here and there, but a significant swath of the industry – are engaging in shameful practices that use deception, guilt, manipulation and outright lies in order to boost their revenues, even if it means risking the health of our four-legged best friends.

Caveat emptor, fellow dog-parents.





Vets overcharging in Canada

Turns out the shameful practices that Shayna’s List was created to address are also being perpetrated in the Great White North.   From (emphasis added):

Many veterinary bills include ‘inappropriate’ costs:
Marketplace reveals that, despite evidence, some vets continue to over-vaccinate pets

By Megan Griffith-Greene, October 4, 2013.

Despite guidelines that recommend vaccinating dogs every three years, many veterinarians continue to push annual vaccinations, a CBC Marketplace investigation reveals.

And when dogs get annual jabs, pet owners may be getting gouged.

“It’s inappropriate and [veterinarians] need to get with the current policies and guidelines,” said Dr. Jean Dodds, a California-based veterinarian and researcher, who is an expert in dog vaccination protocols and an outspoken critic of over-vaccination.

Some veterinarians told Marketplace staff who documented vet visits on hidden camera that they recommend yearly vaccines as a way of making sure that pet owners schedule wellness exams.

Other vets either were not familiar with or did not trust research that says annual shots are unnecessary.

Research in this area is “black and white,” Dr. Dodds said in an interview with Marketplace co-host Erica Johnson for the show’s season premiere, “Barking Mad,” which airs Friday at 8pm.

“There’s plenty of documented evidence that shows that vaccines last much longer than we used to believe, and from now on, vaccines should be given less frequently to those animals that are properly immunized when they were younger.” [...]

“[Core] vaccines provide long-term immunity,” said Dr. Ron Schultz, who teaches veterinary medicine at the University of Wisconsin and helped develop the AAHA guidelines.

Dr. Schultz said that giving dogs core vaccines every year is “like vaccinating a human for measles every seven to 10 years for the rest of their lives.”

[Continue reading]

Here is the response letter from the president of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association.

Tip of the iceberg, folks.

Take a look at some of the reader comments on these pages from the show “Barking Mad,” which produced this article.  While some of our animal-loving friends to the north are more accustomed to the entitlement mentality than we in the U.S. are (thinking that their personal financial strains should entitle them to lowered vet bills) the comments to pay attention to are the ones that deal with the massive over-charging: $15 to write a prescription for an outside pharmacy?  Spay surgery that costs more in Canada than the cost of bringing the animal over the border to the U.S., paying for health clearance and a hotel overnight, to have it done here?

One pet parent talked about how “some vets feel horribly put upon and think they are above public scrutiny.”  From my research and personal observations, this is an affliction that knows no geographic boundaries.

News flash: Shayna’s List is going to become a prime resource in documenting these outrages.

Got an outrage to report?  Email me.





The ABC “20/20″ expose: “Is Your Veterinarian Being Honest With You?”

This segment, from ABC’s “20/20″ program, caused quite a stir within the veterinary community.

I wouldn’t have believed any of it when I became a first-time dog parent, in 2002.  But since then, I’ve come to realize that this is merely the tip of the iceberg, as I document elsewhere on Shayna’s List, and I discuss in my book.  Also, see below the video for an excerpt from a veterinarian who is trying to stand up for basic ethics, and is waging a very lonely fight.

See more US News from ABC|ABC World News

You can learn more about Dr. Andrew Jones at:

And through a Google search, you can find lots of veterinarians assailing Dr. Jones personally (some with legitimate points), and trashing ABC, but almost none address the basic points he made.

Two vets offer dissenting opinions on the 20/20 piece

It’s for this reason that an article by Emily Jefferson, DVM is so refreshing – because she acknowledges there are serious problems within the veterinary profession, and that if vets don’t clean it up, someone else (eg Shayna’s List) will.  Excerpt:

You probably know that 20/20 aired a segment on alleged dishonest practices within the veterinary field.  A veterinarian named Dr. Andrew Jones (who had left the profession) tried to discuss some issues I’ve addressed over the last 3 years in Ethical Veterinarian.  Among these were over-vaccination, “upselling” of unnecessary procedures, and the potential for veterinarians to put business interests above animal well-being.

Firstly, I never expect a media piece to report accurately on science topics.  This was obviously a shaming attention-grabber, not the effective educational piece it could have been.  Any compelling scientific comments that the interviewed vets made, if they existed, probably ended up on the cutting room floor.  Let’s face it, they wouldn’t have been alluring to the average TV viewer or easily interpreted by a TV journalist.

So yes, trying to incriminate a vet for recommending a dental cleaning, of all things, was lame.  Conducting an undercover investigation was also lame…we’re not the mafia or an illegal prostitution ring. And since I do not know Dr. Jones personally, I can’t even say with certainty what his motive was for doing the interview.

But I have to point out that throughout the segment, 20/20 did say that “some veterinarians” engage in unethical business practices.  It never generalized this to the entire profession. Nonetheless, this approximately 7 and 1/2 minute piece still incited the biggest emotional uprising of veterinarians I’ve seen for any reason.  A factual correction or two about dental cleanings and lumps would have sufficed. However, an astounding number of vets were galvanized to start reactionary blogs, or at least their posts seemed to be shared like never before.  Contained in these posts was an overflow of outrage, defensiveness, melodrama, self-validation and calls for professional solidarity.  It was as if a national tragedy with pervasive loss of life had occurred. [...]

[O]ur defensive backlash still irked me more than anything about the 20/20 piece itself. Why? Because it was the same unproductive, in-unison, knee-jerk reaction vets seem to show whenever someone else implies they may be wrong.  After the segment aired, vets immediately set to work trying to refute everything about the 20/20 segment, even the parts that were accurate or could have been legitimate in certain instances.

Also, I’ve been expecting a TV expose on the vet industry for years, so I’m not on board with the shock. (I knew it was coming for sure when the plaintiff in the Corpus Christi cat vaccine case personally contacted me. After losing the life of her beloved cat and the case, the flabbergasted plaintiff stated, “I lost my veterinarian lawsuit because “if all veterinarians adhere to the same standards then it’s not negligence.”)

I never wanted to see veterinarians tossed into the sensationalist media ring, but that’s why I and a handful of others in the field have been working to engage vets in a professional, internal setting on these potentially explosive issues—for years.  I would have never taken my concerns to TV news. But, on the other hand, can I tell you what response I’ve gotten from other vets using professional appeals rather than the silly mainstream media? Almost nothing.  A frustrating, empty silence.  One closed-minded VMA after another.  An ongoing belief that the veterinary status quo will be just fine—permanently.  An insistence that we don’t have to evolve at the pace of society in our decisions about animals.

Dr. Jones said he needed to say things that “weren’t being said.” Again, I think he used some examples that were too vague and situational to be considered valid. But his sentiment was justified – there are problems in this profession that it refuses to address internally. Business practices that conflict with animal (and veterinarian!) welfare are among those. You quickly hit a wall inside this profession if you disembark from the collective view, even with compelling evidence in hand. If you’re a vet and don’t think so, maybe it’s because you’ve never disembarked from the collective view. Have you? I’ve done it, both as an associate and as a practice owner, and you should see the juvenile behaviors I’m met with. They shock me much more than the 20/20 piece.

[Continue reading]

Here’s one more kernel of acknowledgment contained in an article from another vet, Patty Khuly, VMD, MBA, that otherwise scorches both ABC and Dr. Jones (emphasis added):

Our track record on vaccination policy is embarrassing. According to some vaccine manufacturers, including Dr. Mark Kimsey, senior brand manager for canine biologicals with Boehringer Ingelheim, a full 60 percent of us are still vaccinating our patients annually in spite of long-standing evidence-based recommendations to the contrary. (Ignore your coop’s foxes at your own peril.)

At the risk of incurring the 60 percent’s wrath, I say it’s high time we abandoned our protectionist ways with respect to vaccination protocols and accepted that vaccinating annually makes us look like turnip-trucking idiots who care more about our bottom lines than our patients’ well-being.

I don’t care why you do it––whether it’s because you think you won’t get your patients in every year or because AAHA and the AVMA give you a wink and a nod in the name of “veterinary discretion” (for shame!)––you should just stop doing it already.

It makes us all look stupid when we ignore reams of evidence because it’s more expedient to do so.

[Continue reading]

The truth is coming.  And it’s not going to be pretty.  But it is long overdue.  And Shayna’s List will be taking a leading role in arming dog parents with the facts necessary to make informed decisions on how to judge veterinary care – and inoculate them against the manipulation and subtle bullying that can lead them to make bad decisions.

And it will be done in Shayna’s name – because her dog friends deserve much better than what they are now being subjected to.


Shayna at the University of Virginia, September 11, 2006. 







What is driving your vet’s recommendations for diagnostics?

Or more precisely, what is the dominant motivating factor in your veterinarian’s recommendation to perform diagnostic testing – imaging, lab work, or other – on your dog?

If you are an unsuspecting (normal) dog parent, there is only one answer: because your vet believes there is or may be something wrong with your best friend, and the only way to determine this for sure is to perform a specific diagnostic test (or multiple ones).

The reality, unfortunately, may be far different.  And what you’re about to read is just one indication of what I referred to here as the really ugly, unseen underbelly of the veterinary profession.

Take a look at this article by DVM360, a leading veterinary industry publication (click to enlarge):

DVM360 article on diagnostic revenue targets

Let’s start with the title:

How diagnostics drive success in veterinary practice (Sponsored by IDEXX Laboratories Inc.)

Diagnostics “drives success” in veterinary practices?  Does that mean that by providing diagnostic services for dogs and cats whose care and conditions indicate it, one can be more successful?  Nope.  The article begins with what is presumed to be a question posed to a veterinary clinic owner, by his or her professional financial adviser – then two such individuals, Karen E. Felsted (CPA, MS, DVM, CVPM) and Fritz Wood (CPA, CFP) provide the “answer.” (Ed.: Emphasis added)

“Q) What percentage of gross revenue should you expect from diagnostic testing?

“Wood: I would like to see your diagnostic income approach 20% to 25% of your total gross income. And I’d like to see it grow on an annual basis. (See Figure 1 for a chart showing laboratory revenue in well-managed practices.)

“Felsted: If you look at the three published studies out there,1-3 it’s currently somewhere between 13.5% to almost 18% of revenue. If a practice is producing less diagnostic revenue than that, management needs to focus on this area.

Stop and think about that.  A normal person – and pet parent – would assume that a veterinary clinic’s revenues for diagnostic services are generated because the vet(s) have examined the animals under their care and, based on what they observe, advise that certain diagnostic tests be performed.

Now, re-read those “answers.”  They have nothing whatsoever to do with animal welfare – only with a desire to increase the veterinary clinic’s revenues.  Then, imagine you are an honest veterinarian, reading this article.  These professional financial advisers say that if your clinic’s diagnostic revenues don’t measure up to their recommended targets, that you should “focus on this area” – implying, convincing pet parents to authorize diagnostics that their best friends may not need.  Finally, the financial adviser who is listed as a veterinarian (Felsted) says your revenue should be higher than the other’s recommended target – and that this figure should “grow on an annual basis.”

Laughing mechanic

No one wants to envision their veterinarian acting like this. How sad that it is veterinarians themselves who are giving us solid reasons to view them like this.

Think about all that.  Imagine this wasn’t a veterinary publication, but say, one targeting auto service centers.  Now, imagine the publication featured a column by auto service industry financial advisers who openly state that “shock absorbers should constitute 20-25% of your annual revenues,” and that that figure should “grow on an annual basis.”  How soon would it be before a governmental consumer protection agency, or an enterprising investigative journalist, would be sending in undercover customers, to see how many times service centers who subscribe to this publication follow its implied advice – and was recommending that unsuspecting customers pay to have new shocks installed on their cars, whether they needed them or not?

Yet here we have this advice, being openly given on a medical website,, that claims to be “the (veterinary) market’s best read and most respected publications” (hover over the “Publications” circle at that link, or click here for screencap).  It is published by Advanstar Veterinary, which claims is “the leading news website in terms of reach and engagement, serving the entire universe of 155,000 unique veterinarians and teams each month.”

And as an added punch line, the article is sponsored by IDEXX Laboratories, which just happens to be a leading maker of veterinary diagnostic technologies.


So basically, what we have here is an advice column for veterinarians that:

  • Counsels them to (a) aim to generate 13-25% of their annual revenues from diagnostics – regardless of whether their patients actually require these tests – and (b) work to make this figure grow on an annual basis.
  • Is sponsored by a company that just happens to make certain diagnostic technologies, and therefore stands to significantly profit if vets actually follow the advice in this column.

Certain honest veterinarians are now openly stating (example) that if the veterinary profession doesn’t clean up its own act, someone from the outside is eventually going to pull back the veil, and expose the outrageous, profit-driven shenanigans that are being perpetrated by some within it.

News flash: Shayna’s List is going to be that external force that exposes this kind of shameful nonsense.

Do you have a story of similar outrageous conduct by veterinarians, or those who counsel them?  Email me.

Is Kroger engaging in willful ignorance?

(Cross-posted from Shayna’s site)

You be the judge.

I took the following pictures on Nov. 9, 2012 in a Kroger in Charlottesville, VA.  (FYI, Kroger is one of the world’s largest grocery retailers, with over $90 billion in annual revenue.)  In the dog food aisle I saw “Natural Flavor Unbasted Rawhide Twists for Dogs,” produced by “Pet Pride”:

From the way this product is packaged, I think most dog parents would assume it is safe for their best friends – or at least that it won’t harm them.  Note:

  • It’s being sold in a huge, respected retailer.
  • It has a Hallmark card image of a man hugging his smiling, vibrant dog.
  • It uses of the word “natural” not once but twice in the package front.
  • It claims the product “removes tartar and plaque.”

That all sounds pretty good.  And at around $4.00, it’s an impulse buy for the busy, stressed-out, unsuspecting dog parent who feels guilty about being away so many hours from their best friend – and who, in the next moment, remembers, “Oh, that’s right!  I have to get candles for Chloe’s birthday cake… which aisle are they in?”

Boom: the purchase decision is made, and the person looks forward to the delight on their dog’s face as he/she is given this presumably safe, helpful, “natural” rawhide.


But is this product really all that the packaging says it is?

Let’s examine it a little further.  Here’s the back of the package:

According to the front of the package, the product contains – at a minimum – two ingredients: rawhide, and “natural” flavors.  Yet under “Ingredients,” only one item is listed: rawhide.  Do you really believe there is only one ingredient in this product?  Wait, it gets better.

Now, look down a bit, and you see it says it is a “Product of China.” (For those who don’t know, this is basically the kiss of death; China is notorious for infusing dog products with an array of carcinogens – and in the case of rawhide products for dogs, it gets even more stomach-churning.)

Beneath that and to the left, you see a highlighted box that reads:

“Happy pet guaranteed! We promise our Pet Pride products will help your furry family members stay happy and active every day.”

A closer view:

So apparently, “Pet Pride” is Kroger’s house brand of dog products.

Both names have been in the news of late – and not in a positive way:

Kroger Faces Class-Action Suit Over Pet Food Recall – Poisoned Pets | A look inside the pet food industry

Kroger recalling pet food due to possible contamination |

List of recalls for Pet Food Products from PET PRIDE

Kroger Pet Pride Adverse Event Reports

Aflatoxin Found in Kroger Pet Food Processing Plant « Daily Kitten Chat Forum



So how does all this compare to what Kroger says about itself?

Let’s take a look. On its front page, Kroger claims:

“The Kroger Co. values honesty, integrity, safety, diversity, inclusion and respect”

Really?  How could a company that (really) holds those values engage in this kind of behavior?

And if you think what Kroger does doesn’t affect you, because you don’t have any of its stores in your area, think again.  According to its website:

Kroger operates 2,425 grocery retail stores in 31 states under nearly two dozen banners, along with “37 food processing or manufacturing facilities producing high quality private-label products that provide value for customers and enhanced margins for Kroger.”



So let’s review what we’ve learned:

  • Kroger is a leading U.S. grocery retailer, which claims it values “honesty, integrity, safety, diversity, inclusion and respect.”
  • Kroger’s “Pet Pride” house brand of dog rawhide is made in China, and uses packaging that is clearly deceptive – claiming that it is “natural” (twice), and that the only ingredient is rawhide – when other copy on the package indicates otherwise.
  • Kroger “guarantees” happy pets with its “Pet Pride” brand, and more, “we promise our Pet Pride products will help your furry family members stay happy and active every day.”
  • The “Pet Pride” brand name is somewhat notorious for contamination issues.



Would you like to make your voice known to Kroger?

Here’s how:

David B. Dillon (bio)
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
1014 Vine Street
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202-1100
(513) 762-4000

Kroger’s general contact page is here, and its comment page is here.




I came across a terrific dog food and treat watchdog site, Dog Food Advisor, which posted this about Chinese-imported jerky treats:

Tell the Pet Food Industry — Stop Selling Chinese Jerky Treats!