Republican state lawmaker Tricia Derges of Missouri was indicted by a federal grand jury on Monday after allegedly selling bogus treatments for covid-19, making promises to treat painful conditions with ineffective therapies, and lying to federal investigators. The 63-year-old woman is licensed as an assistant physician in Missouri and allegedly sold “stem cell” treatments that contained absolutely no stem cells, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The “stem cell shots” that Derges peddled both in person and online were actually just amniotic fluid that she bought from the University of Utah, according to the Department of Justice. Investigators say Derges brought in a total of $191,815 selling the fluid as a treatment for a variety of ailments and started touting its use for covid-19 as the pandemic became serious in the U.S. during the spring of 2020.
Derges also used Facebook to advertise her “stem cell” shots, according to the DOJ, which she marketed under the name “Regenerative Biologics.” One Facebook post even proclaimed, “This amazing treatment stands to provide a potential cure for COVID-19 patients that is safe and natural.”
From the DOJ press release:
Despite being told that the University of Utah’s amniotic fluid allograft was “acellular” and did not contain mesenchymal stem cells, Derges allegedly continued to tell her patients and the public that the amniotic fluid allograft contained stem cells.
Derges administered amniotic fluid, which she falsely claimed contained stem cells, to patients who suffered from, among other things, tissue damage, kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Lyme disease, erectile dysfunction, and urinary incontinence.
Derges has been charged with 20 federal counts, including 10 counts of distributing drugs online without a prescription, eight counts of wire fraud, and two counts of making false statements to federal agents.
Officials at the Department of Justice were tipped off after Derges appeared on a local TV station in southern Missouri peddling her therapies back in April of 2020. Federal authorities claim she knew the amniotic fluid therapy she was selling didn’t contain stem cells.
“This defendant abused her privileged position to enrich herself through deception,” U.S. Attorney Tim Garrison said in a statement posted online. “The indictment alleges she lied to her patients and she lied to federal agents. As an elected official and a health care provider, she deserves to be held to a high standard. This grand jury indictment exposes her deception and holds her accountable for her actions.”
In the state of Missouri, any medical school graduates who haven’t been accepted into a residency program can become assistant physicians but they must be accompanied by a licensed physician, according to DOJ. Derges reportedly received her medical degree from Caribbean Medical University of Curacao, a for-profit school on the small island of Curacao, a Dutch territory roughly 40 miles north of Venezuela.
Derges pleaded not guilty during a court appearance on Monday afternoon, according to the Springfield News-Leader in Missouri. Derges was reportedly released without having to post bond.
The Missouri lawmaker posted an illustration of David and Goliath to Facebook on Monday, suggesting that she was perhaps David, and strongly hinting that she was innocent of the charges against her.
“God stood with David, I have the faith that He will stand with me against the Goliath that I face today - his sole purpose is to destroy,” Derges wrote. “Please believe in me and please keep praying for me.”
Derges was a proud supporter of former President Donald Trump, according to her campaign website. Unfortunately for her, Trump isn’t around to pass out pardons anymore.