Philadelphia doctor pleads not guilty to trafficking in diet pills

    Federal prosecutors say a doctor from New Hope earned millions dispensing diet pills at a ‘cash-only’ weight-loss center in Northeast Philadelphia.

    Federal prosecutors say a doctor from New Hope earned millions dispensing diet pills at a ‘cash-only’ weight-loss center in Northeast Philadelphia.

    Dr. Christopher Vassalluzzo has pleaded not guilty to charges including drug trafficking conspiracy and money laundering.

    Attorney Jeffrey Miller acknowledged that his client didn’t operate the diet center as a conventional doctor’s office but says that wasn’t necessary.

    Miller: The folks weren’t there for rocket science or astro-physics lessons. These are fat folks that wanted to get skinny.

    Miller says Vassalluzzo often did see patients face to face, but provided proper supervision for their care.

    Miller:
    Many times the program was administered by subordinates in his office, who would weigh the people take their blood pressure, give them exercise information, give them weight control advice, and if appropriate, they were given pills on the basis of Dr. Vassalluzzo’s – or one of the other — doctor’s recommendation.

    Miller says his client, who is an emergency room doctor by training, still retains his medical license, but has shuttered the clinic on Holme Avenue.

    Miller says a diet center operates in a “gray area” of medicine.

    Miller: So the fact that: ‘A’ he didn’t see all of the people all of the time, or even most of the time, coupled with the fact that he took cash raises a great deal of suspicion in the government’s eyes, in my eyes it doesn’t raise any suspicions, it’s real life, it’s the way the world works.

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