(WXYZ) - When Mickey Christopher visited HRC Medical in Wixom for her scheduled appointment, she was startled to read the sign on the door. It said the company--which was now operating under another name--was closed.
The company marketed its bioidentical hormone replacement therapy as safe and natural; a way for menopausal women to improve their sex drive and combat fatigue by having their hormones replaced by having tiny pellets placed under their skin.
But it's what the company doesn't tell you, says the FDA and many doctors, that can lead to uncommon but serious risks.
"For estrogen therapy, the most serious risk is death," said Dr. Mark Dykowski, an OBGYN with Beaumont Hospital.
"Estrogen has a big black box warning for the FDA, that says it can cause breast and uterine cancer. It can cause stroke, heart attack, blood clots and death...They're not being honest with patients if they don't include those risks."
Since our first report in February , 22 complaints about HRC Medical have been filed with Michigan's Attorney General. Legal action taken by Tennesse's Attorney General effectively closed the business down.
Mickey Christopher says she's glad the company is no longer operating, but told 7 Action News that she wishes action had been taken sooner.
"A normal testosterone level for women is 2 to 45," Christopher said.
"And mine was 188 (after the therapy)."
Christopher said her treatments helped level out her mood swings and improve her sex drive, but the side effects were much worse.
"The next thing you know, there was a voice change...I had a lot of blood in my stool, filling the toilet. It was getting a little bit scary, I had no clue what was going on."
When June Sobocinski started feeling abdominal pain after her treatment, she went to her own doctor who ran some tests.
"She told me if she was me, she would get off of it," Sobocinski said, who hasn't been to HRC or the clinics that took its place since.
And when Karen Giles started to experience excessive bleeding after her hormone replacement, she went to see her gynecologist. After a battery of tests, a uterine cancer diagnosis soon followed. Just as with Christopher and Sobocinski, there's no way to know if her treatment caused it, but the HRC doctor who treated Giles insists he's not to blame.
In an e-mail to 7 Action News, he said Giles stopped taking necessary progesterone during her treatment…writing that he told her there was "incontrovertible evidence that she risked being stricken with blood clots and uterine cancer."
Giles acknowledges she didn't always take the supplements, but says she told her doctor and he never mentioned a risk of cancer. He continued to treat her anyway.
"Never in my wildest dream did I think I'd be going through what I'm going through," Giles said.
"I wonder: did I cause this to come upon myself by going there?"
Giles' HRC doctor wouldn't agree to an interview, but said in an e-mail regarding HRC's therapy: "…nobody knows exactly what the risks are…"
Even though HRC's doors are now closed, that doesn't mean this story is over. Fmr. HRC physician Dr. Steve Lasater—who treated hundreds of women-- was slapped with a three count complaint by the attorney general that could cost him his medical license.
It says his treatment of one patient caused her testosterone levels soar way beyond normal. She was ultimately hospitalized. The AG accuses him of negligence, incompetence and a lack of good moral character. Reached by phone, Lasater said he had no comment.
"The right hormones done the right way can help women," Christopher told 7 Action News.
"But those doctors that don't know what they're doing? It's hurting us."
If you have a complaint about treatment you received from HRC, click here to get in touch with Michigan's attorney general.
Contact Investigator Ross Jones at email@example.com or at (248) 827-9466.