MWI: Patient stories

I first became aware of the Medical Weightloss Institute through its full-page ad in the Brisbane Courier Mail in June this year. I have struggled with obesity for 20+ years following the birth of my last child. At 63 and trying to recover from a torn plantar fascia for six months when I saw the ad, I thought this could be the answer for me – viz., a medically supervised mechanism with lots of support from doctors and other staff.

In addition to the stated claims and testimonials in the ad, the words’ medical institute’ and the inclusion of the iconic medical symbol as part of its logo led me to believe the organization was credible. The ad’s representation convinced me this would be a scientific approach given it was based on blood tests and, I thought, close and ongoing medical oversight.

When I initially responded to the ad, the person I spoke to was very engaging and personable. We discussed my health history to determine my suitability for the program. She mentioned that she had lost weight on this program and commented that the medication was crucial to its success. She gave me her direct line and mobile phone number and went to great pains to reassure me that I could call her any time for support. Given that my program lasts 35 weeks, I was quoted a total cost of $9,600, but with the promotional discount, it would be $5,420. I could pay a 50% deposit and the remainder charged to my credit card in fortnightly installments.

Following this conversation, I received my first email, which notified me: “Each of our weight loss programs is custom-tailored by our medical team based upon your medical history and a comprehensive blood test analysis. Our team comprises expert weight loss specialists, including doctors, nurses, nutritionists, and motivational psychologists……… The program’s cost includes all the medications, doctor consultations, and pathology tests you receive. Our team will monitor them to ensure you receive the best care….” (full email attached).

While the cost of the 35-week program was mind-blowing and not something I could afford, I committed to it because I believed it was genuine and expected substantial support from the medical staff and others. I also assumed there would be periodic repeats of pathology tests to measure changes to the baseline result. Otherwise, what did this incredible amount of money cover???? So I ‘signed on,’ paid the deposit of $2,710, and have made fortnightly payments since totaling $774.30 as of today (see payment receipt email attached). After spending the deposit, I was given access to a members-only website that doesn’t contain the sort of information one would expect to justify the program’s cost. The key to “motivational psychologists” seems to be several short videos featuring Geoff Jowett.

Immediately I started to feel uneasy. I then received calls/emails from a ‘coordinator’ and a ‘nurse.’ I was told the contact who spoke to me in the beginning and who had given me her direct line and the mobile number was different from my touch, and I would be advised later of my assigned Program Manager/Nutrition Coach. I was only given the phone switch number and an email address when that person was given. I specifically asked for her direct line, as her colleague had done previously, but this was declined. I cynically mentioned that I didn’t feel as supported now that I was ‘on board’!!

The Program Manager/Nutrition Coach does not provide any nutrition expertise or talk through side effects, as I have outlined in the paragraph below. She calls once a week to see how everything is going and parrots disingenuous statements that are probably said to everyone to be ‘encouraging.’ There is no skill here tailored to my circumstances!

Toward the end of the program’s first week, I became acutely constipated and asked the Program Manager if I could discuss this with the MWI doctor. The Program Manager said this was impossible and I should consult my GP, which I did. However, the problem persisted, and I wondered if the problem could be caused by one of the prescription drugs. I mentioned that, with what I was paying for this program, I shouldn’t have to pay for my GP consultations. The Program Manager then arranged for Dr. Jacqui Forrester to phone me. Rather than being friendly and making me feel like I was being supported, she just said to stop the Metformin medication, and she would arrange for replacement medication to be sent to me. However, this did not fix the problem, and I consulted my GP again for a long consultation that cost me $140.

I recently saw a full-page ad in the Courier Mail while visiting family in Brisbane for Geoff Jowett’s new organization treating men with testosterone problems. I was amazed, and this confirmed that MWI is simply a rort. When I returned from Brisbane, I mentioned the ad to my Program Manager, and she informed me this was MWI’s “sister organization”!! At this point, I googled information on MWI, which returned the article in the Sydney Morning Herald and a copy of your submission to AHPRA and the ACCC.

Since then, I have called the TGA and enquired about the appetite suppressant drug I have been prescribed (Diethylpropion) and found it needs to be registered with TGA and that the MWI compounding pharmacy seems not to be subject to any regulation in Australia! Information I accessed on the FDA website makes me very concerned about the way this drug has been prescribed for me by MWI. I know I won’t be able to talk to Dr. Forrester about my concerns, and I shouldn’t have to pay again to discuss this with my GP.

I am very embarrassed that I have been ‘taken in’ by MWI. Apart from withdrawing from their program and getting my money back (and I appreciate whatever help you can provide with this), I would like to see them held accountable by the relevant authorities for their malpractices and prevented from establishing ‘institutes’ for other health issues under the guise of medically based treatments.

Dorothy said

Hi, I recently read your complaint regarding this program. I am writing to you with embarrassment as I have fallen for this scam. I recently inherited a small amount of money from my father and decided he would want to gift me my health back. I would not have been able to afford this otherwise. I have had some serious medical issues over the years that bankrupted me. I am crawling out of the mess I was left in, but not before gaining weight. I tried all sorts of things and was convinced I must have an imbalance. I saw the MWI on Facebook, and it couldn’t have shown up at a better time. Long story short: I paid them $4400.00 (1/2 price supposedly), the medication they have to prescribe can make me feel nauseated, and I get a phone call a week and a two-page menu suggestion. That’s it! First three weeks, I lost 3 kilos; in the fourth week gained one back, and tomorrow, starting on the fifth week.

I can not help thinking I am being scammed, which infuriates my concerns with the medication. I am sure if I tell them, they will adjust the concoction.

I have yet to complain to them. Do you have advice on how I should handle this?

Christie said:

Medical Weightloss Institute ripped me off. They promised I would lose a variable weight within a time frame. They did not lose weight, and they extended the program. Not with any extra medication or anything, just a suggestion for a change of breakfast smoothie. I did not lose any more weight and have put it back on. I was so disheartened by their lack of concern and frequent change of staff who spoke to me that I asked for a refund and received $149.37. I paid $2,495.

They are snake oil salesmen, and I caution anybody to think again and go to their doctor who sees them and knows them rather than a disembodied voice who does not know you or have any interest in you apart from your money.

I was relieved to see the SMH article exposed them as frauds.

Beverley said:

I also paid $2500 plus fees which should have been stated at the program’s start. I saw this initially in the body and soul newspaper. I got scammed.

The doctor didn’t even ring me; I had to ring him; blood tests cost me extra money out of my pocket, as Medicare didn’t cover all of it. After six weeks, I got a phone call saying my program was about to end. What the! I said no way; I haven’t lost 10kgs. I rang many times to be told my coach would ring me back, never did. I then sent an email and said I was not very happy about the message received, stating the program ended when I had yet to be spoken to. I also had three different coaches. When I told them I was getting onto body and soul, they said they would give me another six weeks. They sent me more tablets. I have lost 2kgs, but that’s it. I then got told that I needed to exercise more, so I added a body pump and more cardio to my routine. I eat healthily and take tablets, but I have plateaued in my weight. 2kgs is all I’ve lost. Pills don’t do anything. Now I have to pay $58 per week if I want to stay in the program, which is doing nothing for me. It’s a waste of money. Weight loss coaches that you can’t get a hold of, and all you get are some tablets, and then you’re on your own. $2500+ waste of money”.

Carrie said:

I paid for this yesterday afternoon; the girl gave me 5 minutes to decide. I am still waiting to receive something. Can I get my money back? Desperate and feeling very sick about this scam; many dollars down the drain that I can’t afford; I am desperate. Is there anyone that I can contact to help me????