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Accusations of 'unethical' COVID-19 treatment at Carmel Valley medical spa

Posted at 6:10 PM, Mar 30, 2020

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – A local medical spa is coming under fire for offering a coronavirus treatment that costs thousands of dollars but the spa director defends his actions.

Dr. Jennings Staley operates Carmel Valley’s Skinny Beach med spa which specializes in treatments like Botox and laser hair removal. He says he’s been dealing with a lot over the last few days.

“Death threats. My wife was in tears all day Saturday fielding phone calls from people who say I'm an unethical doctor,” he tells 10News.

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He's being accused of being unethical for advertising COVID-19 treatment packs with hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin.

Last Friday, screen shots shared with 10News revealed his new COVID-19 treatment pricing plans which go up to nearly $4,000 for a family resistance pack which includes, in part, the prescription drugs and vitamin C.

“It just seems to me that it's a way to profit off of people's fear,” says Seattle-area family practitioner Dr. Leanne Kildare.

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When she saw the ads, she was stunned.

One ad description reads in part, "Dr. Staley will evaluate your symptoms via telemedicine” and "if needed, a nurse or Dr. Staley will visit you at your home" for further evaluation and potential in-home COVID-19 testing and possibly start a treatment pack, which is "now available by prescription only through Skinny Beach med spa."

“It doesn’t sit well,” adds Dr. Kildare.

“I knew it would be a little bit controversial because there was the controversy around the fact that hydroxychloroquine wasn't approved until Sunday night but I didn't think people would be so angry,” Dr. Staley tells 10News.

The FDA gave emergency approval Sunday to distribute hydroxychloroquine to hospitals, despite the potential side effects like heart problems, and lack of studies showing the medication's benefits.

“I would not prescribe the medication without seeing the patient and evaluating them first,” Dr. Staley says.

He tells 10News that he's treating about 20 patients with possible COVID-19 symptoms and he's only charging a few of them for his services. He adds that he doesn't have test kits yet and he has not yet prescribed any of them the hydroxychloroquine.

Dr. Kildare believes it’s irresponsible to offer the drug outside of a controlled hospital setting.

“I wouldn't take the risk. I wouldn't do it at this point in time,” she tells 10News.

The ads have been taken down but Dr. Staley says he's still offering the treatments and he'll do them for free if patients can't afford them.