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Chiropractor discipline upheld in case alleging antitrust violations

In a December 1 memorandum opinion, the District Court of Virginia ruled in favor of a board's decision to sanction a chiropractor, holding that the board did not violate any antitrust laws (Petri v. Virginia board of Medicine).

In February 2013, the Virginia Board of Medicine determined that Yvoune Petrie violated sections of the Virginia Code by advertising and promoting her services in a manner that was false and misleading. The board claimed that Petrie acted outside the scope of her chiropractic practice by “holding herself out as a nutritionist able to ‘reverse’ Type 2 diabetes and treat thyroid and metabolic disorders.”

The board asserted that she did not meet the criteria listed in Virginia law to present herself as a registered dietician and nutritionist, and thus was acting outside the scope of her practice by offering “diet and nutrition counseling, ordering blood, saliva, and urine testing, and performing procedures with a laser.” The board fined Petrie $25,000 and suspended her license for six months.

Petrie appealed the board’s decision and brought suit against the board, alleging breach of antitrust law, “that the Defendants entered an agreement to allocate the relevant service markets to medical doctors and excluded chiropractors, including Plaintiff, from competing in those markets in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.” She sought to introduce expert witnesses to show that the board is excluding chiropractors and unfairly limiting their scope of practice; the court disallowed the witnesses.

But in a memorandum opinion, handed down by District Judge Claude M. Hilton, the court disagreed with Petrie’s claims. Hilton highlighted the law that states, “the elimination of a single competitor, standing alone, does not prove the anticompetitive effect necessary to establish antitrust injury.”

According to Judge Hilton, there was not enough evidence presented by Petrie to demonstrate that what happened to her (even under the assumption of unreasonableness) was a widespread epidemic affecting chiropractors.