Kennewick aesthetician battles claims of practicing without license

By Michelle Dupler, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 15, 2013 

A Kennewick aesthetician told the Herald on Thursday that she's fighting recent allegations that she illegally injected clients with anti-wrinkle drugs, some of them at "Botox parties."

Colleen Patridge-Staudinger has been indicted in federal court and faces possible charges of practicing medicine without a license from the state Department of Health -- both cases stemming from allegations she received anti-wrinkle drugs similar to Botox from a Hermiston doctor and used them on clients.

The government claims aestheticians aren't allowed to inject people with prescription drugs in Washington.

But Patridge-Staudinger's attorney, Jim Egan of Kennewick, said there's nothing in Washington law that says a licensed aesthetician like his client can't give injections, and that she's properly trained to do it.

"It is the strong feeling of the Department of Health that only doctors can inject," Egan said. "Those positions are for the most part rumor, custom and heritage because there is nothing written down that says that."

Federal court documents obtained by the Herald show Patridge-Staudinger and Dr. Richard A. Flaiz of Hermiston were charged with misbranding prescription drugs and conspiracy to misbrand drugs. A drug is considered misbranded under the federal law if it is dispensed without a valid prescription and held for sale after shipment in interstate commerce.

Egan said a hearing today will determine whether the case goes to trial or is put on a 12-month delay called a diversion that basically is like a form of probation -- if Patridge-Staudinger doesn't commit any new offenses during the delay, the case gets dismissed.

Although Flaiz prescribed the drugs Dysport and Xeomin to be used on patients of his Hermiston medical practice, the U.S. Attorney's Office argued in the indictment that the prescription wasn't legal because Flaiz isn't licensed to practice medicine in Washington, and the interstate commerce provision was triggered when Patridge-Staudinger drove the medication from Hermiston across the state border to the Tri-Cities.

Patridge-Staudinger would then inject clients with the anti-wrinkle drugs at "Botox parties" in Oregon and Washington.

She told the Herald that at the parties, she would walk her clients through the details of the injections and possible risks, and that they signed a waiver saying they wanted the procedure. Standard practice was for clients to see Flaiz before attending a party to have a medical evaluation to determine if the anti-wrinkle drugs were safe for them.

Before starting to offer the anti-wrinkle treatments, Patridge-Staudinger went through six eight-hour training sessions with the drug manufacturers that involved making sure she understood facial anatomy and could inject the drug safely, and how to determine the dosage, she said.

Until about the time of the indictment, she did injections at medical offices in Hermiston and Kennewick three times a week and at the parties about once a month. She started doing the injections in 2008.

Egan said she stopped because she suffered some health issues that arose since the indictment.

Attorneys for Patridge-Staudinger and Flaiz argued in federal court documents that Washington law allows out-of-state doctors to practice medicine in limited ways as long as they're not setting up offices or seeing patients in Washington.

Egan said that opens the door for Flaiz to legally have prescribed the anti-wrinkle drugs and supervised Patridge-Staudinger in their administration.

Supervision doesn't have to involve Flaiz standing over the aesthetician's shoulder or being present at parties, but that being on-call in the event of a problem, and ensuring that Patridge-Staudinger was qualified and trained to give the drugs was sufficient under the law -- and in Oregon, aestheticians have been allowed to inject patients under a doctor's supervision.

The Washington Department of Health takes a different view and said only physicians, advanced registered nurse practitioners and physician's assistants can inject patients unsupervised, and only registered nurses or licensed practical nurses can do it with supervision.

In Washington, aestheticians are not health care providers, but rather are licensed by the Department of Licensing's cosmetology unit.

Department officials said they sent Patridge-Staudinger a document in January called a notice of intent that told her she could face charges of practicing medicine without a license and penalties of up to $1,000 per day of unlicensed practice or per incident.

Egan said his client is fighting those charges, too, and has requested a hearing with the health department.

The state Department of Health told the Herald in response to a public records request Thursday that it will take about five weeks to email a copy of the notice detailing the allegations.

-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; mdupler@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @mduplertch

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