Albert Aniel: Disciplined after a patient’s complaint

Albert Aniel is a retired doctor in Rumford, Maine. In 2013, the Maine Board of Licensure in Medicine disciplined him and restricted his medical license after a patient complaint and subsequent discovery of other irregularities.

Patient complaint

According to the Board, this is what was contained in the patient RW’s complaint:

RW alleged that Dr. Aniel had prescribed an inappropriate medication to her and did not listen to her concerns about the side-effects she was experiencing from the medication. RW alleged that Dr. Aniel ordered tests to determine if she had Lyme disease, that all of the tests came back negative, but Dr. Aniel still prescribed Zithromax, an antibiotic.

RW alleged that she complained of headaches, nausea, diarrhea, fevers, hives, and shortness of breath, but Dr. Aniel told her that she was feeling poorly because the Zithromax was working. RW was told by a pharmacist that she may be experiencing a reaction to the medication, so RW stopped taking it and felt much better.

These allegations are appalling but sadly very normal for how “Lyme literate” doctors gaslight patients who suffer side effects from inappropriate treatments. Patients are frequently falsely told that side effects are “herxing” and that it’s a good thing.

Aniel saw RW in October 14, 2010 when she “complained of feeling sick, having a low-grade fever, a low immune system and fatigue.”

To attempt to determine whether Lyme was the cause of her concerns, Aniel ran a CD57 test, which is not a valid test for Lyme disease. In fact, CD57 was disproven by NIH scientists in 2009. So if RW did have Lyme, then it was a bad idea to not perform a mainstream test right away.

RW received three conventional Lyme tests, each of which were negative. She also tested negative for Babesia, Bartonella, and Ehrlichia titers. It’s bizarre that Aniel even tested RW for Bartonella (which contrary to myth is not a tick-borne disease) and Ehrlichia (which is rare or non-existent in Maine).

But these negative tests did not stop Aniel from prescribing a number of drugs to RW without a compelling rationale. Aniel prescribed Zithromax (azithromycin), Plaquenil (hydroxychloroquine sulfate), Mepron (Atovaquone), and Amantadine. Of these drugs, only azithromycin is used to treat Lyme disease, and even then in only rare circumstances when more effective drugs are unavailable. The CDC notes that azithromycin has lower efficacy than typically recommended antibiotics for Lyme disease.

The Board also described possible side effects from the drugs:

On November 17, 2010, RW called Dr. Aniel’s office to relay that the new medications were not agreeing with her. RW indicated that she was “very dizzy” and “in bed all day” feeling awful (headache but no vomiting), and requesting advice.

Among other things, the Board concluded:

The medical record does not contain any medical rationale or decision-making regarding Dr. Aniel’s diagnosis that RW suffered from Lyme disease; nor does it explain why he was prescribing medications for Lyme disease in light of four previous laboratory tests results that were negative for lyme disease.

Other concerns

After RW’s complaint, the Board reviewed a sample of 10 of Aniel’s charts. According to the Board:

During its review, the Board had concerns regarding record keeping and medical decision making regarding four of the medical records, one of which involved the diagnosis of Lyme disease. The Board concluded that Dr. Aniel’s medical charting was inadequate as it did not reflect his medical thinking or decision making (i.e. why and how he is treating the patient in a certain way). The Board was also concerned that Dr. Aniel prescribed high dosages of narcotics and benzodiazepines without employing “universal precautions “(i.e. written pain contracts, pill counts, urine drug screens, etc).

Disciplinary action

Aniel and the Board came to an agreement in which he would be disciplined. He agreed to accept a warning, pay $486.40 in costs, complete continuing medical education, and accept restrictions on his practice. Aniel was prohibited from diagnosing Lyme disease based on pseudoscience, and limits were placed on his ability to prescribe controlled substances.

Aniel conceded that:

The Board has sufficient evidence from which it could conclude that he violated the standard of care regarding:
  1. medical record keeping,
  2. diagnosing and treating Lyme disease, and
  3. prescribing controlled drugs to the patients for the treatment of nonmalignant chronic pain.

Fear mongering about wind energy

In 2009, Aniel and Michael Nissenbaum aggressively campaigned against wind turbines that produce clean energy. They pointed to unsubstantiated “ill effects” from the turbines and called for a state-wide moratorium.

Aniel and Nissenbaum’s beliefs were rebutted by the Maine health officials and other medical professionals. Dr. Dora Anne Mills, MD, MPH of Maine CDC/DHHS said:

In my review I found no evidence in peer-reviewed medical and public health literature of adverse health effects from the kinds of noise and vibrations heard by wind turbines other than occasional reports of annoyances, and these are mitigated or disappear with proper placement of the turbines from nearby residences. 

Nevertheless, Aniel continued his quixotic campaign, literally tilting at windmills.

Because of lobbying by Aniel, the Maine Medical Association and the Maine Osteopathic Association issued resolutions contain fear mongering language about wind turbines. These resolutions were then used as propaganda by anti-wind activists in Maine, Canada, and Australia. The Maine Medical Association rescinded its resolution in 2011.

As we see over and over, anti-science activists are helped tremendously when a mainstream medical organization endorses pseudoscience and creates unnecessary controversy. While it’s regrettable that the Maine Medical Association issued a bogus resolution, the Association is to be commended for formally rescinding it.


Maine Board of Licensure in Medicine: Albert Aniel Consent Agreement for Discipline

Quackwatch: Disciplinary Action against Albert Aniel, M.D.

Sun Journal: Rumford physician warned; agrees to conditions by state board

Bangor Daily News: Rumford physician warned by state medical board for violations