The county’s Public Health Department announced this week that four patients who tested positive for hepatitis C received injections from Dr. Allen Thomashefsky on the same day. Thomashefsky, who also practices in Oregon, had his Bath Street office shut down last month after Public Health officials found “a large number of things that were very concerning” about his sterilization procedures. They fear he may have infected some of his patients with hepatitis or HIV.
Thomashefsky specialized in a regenerative injection therapy known as prolotherapy. While some consider it quack medicine and others swear by its effectiveness, the treatment is often sought by people with chronic pain who want to avoid surgery. “It’s absolutely amazing,” said one patient, who requested to remain anonymous and who sought treatment after he tore his shoulder. He estimated that he paid several hundred dollars out of pocket for four visits; he was uninsured at the time. “I was super surprised,” he said of the news of the investigation.
Though Public Health officer Dr. Charity Dean could not elaborate about the breaches of infection control she found, examples of such violations include reusing a syringe, inconsistent hand washing, or not wearing latex gloves. The Oregon Medical Board has also prohibited Thomashefsky from administering injections at his Ashland office.
As of April 26, 240 former patients have been tested, and six patients tested positive for hepatitis C; one case was believed to be a prior infection. Zero patients have tested positive for HIV. According to records obtained by Public Health, Thomashefsky saw 1,700 patients in the past seven years. The agency was only able to track down and send about 1,300 letters to patients, urging them to get tested. “It wouldn’t surprise me if we saw more positives,” Dean said, “but the real question is, do those positives have an epidemiology link?”
The Centers for Disease Control is currently performing genetic testing of the positive cases to determine if they are connected. The process could take two months. The District Attorney’s Office is also looking into the matter.