New Zealand's Commerce Commission has slammed the Advanced Medical Institute (AMI) of Australia for its aggressive tactics in promoting erectile dysfunction drugs. The institute has 20 clinics in Australia and three in New Zealand.
The AMI was recently ordered to remove billboards in both countries that carried the words "Want longer lasting sex?"
The Institute which claims to get 400 calls a day from Kiwis, is under investigation in two Australian states for locking men into 18-month A$4000 (NZ$5000) contracts.
Medics say the erectile dysfunction industry is often very pushy, encouraging men to pay for large quantities of medicine upfront, some of which is no more successful than a placebo.
Hamilton urologist Pat Bary, president of the Urological Society of Australia and New Zealand, said the society was concerned about AMI and similar men's health clinics.
"Their advertising is absolutely misleading, they're very pushy in their hard sell that they do, and they're advertising something which doesn't have the background of credibility."
They seemed to rush patients through to sell medication rather than treating the problem, he said.
"The sad thing is that [patients] would go to them first, then turn around and come back to someone like me as a specialist, having had anything up to a couple of thousand dollars taken off them ... with no backup, no follow-up, no satisfactory decent long-term medical care," Mr Bary said.
A Wellington man told The Dominion Post he had called AMI's 0800 number and a doctor said he could prescribe a medication over the phone that would cost NZ$3995. When he decided against the treatment, he said the Australian-based business rang back three times.
"My doctor won't even give me Viagra because of my heart," he said. "I found it was absolutely astounding that they would do that over the phone. It's playing on people's emotions."
The head of the AMI, Jack Vaisman, said about 20 per cent of his clients asked for their money back, but many complaints came when men's wives complained the treatment was too successful and demanded a refund. He said he was in contact with Australian Fair Trading on a daily basis but was baffled by the investigations.
"We're not selling medication, that has to be absolutely clear. We're not selling medication, we're selling the solution."
In February, Health and Disability Commissioner Ron Paterson found the unaffiliated New Zealand Men's Clinic came close to exploiting four of its patients.
He found the doctor involved did not physically examine any of the men before prescribing them treatment with injections or nasal sprays.