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Body imaging business pushes health scans many don’t need

Pro Publica, June 7, 2011

In the last two years, Heart Check America has made free heart scan sales pitches to tens of thousands of Americans in five states, bringing in about $30 million in sales revenue, according to its manager, David Haddad. But recently, the company has come under fire from patients, regulators and medical experts. In scores of consumer complaints, Heart Check America clients have accused the company of using pressure sales tactics inappropriate for a healthcare company. Doctors have lashed into the company for marketing scans to those who most likely do not need them – people under 40 who don't smoke, aren't overweight, and have no family history or symptoms of heart disease. Even for patients at risk of heart disease, some experts say, there is no medical evidence that the benefits of the tests outweigh potential dangers. Scans can result in false positives, leading to unnecessary treatments that are invasive and risky, said Gilbert Welch, MD, a Dartmouth Medical School professor who studies the problems created by attempts at early disease detection.