John Hoffmann: Another “Lyme Literate” Cult Leader

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John Gregory Hoffmann was a dangerous quack doctor and cult leader who practiced in Waupaca, WI. He had a long history of complaints and disciplinary actions, and yet somehow he continued to practice medicine for many years.

Despite having no recognized advanced credentials in infectious disease, Hoffmann was known as being “Lyme literate.” Hoffmann received many citations, license suspensions, and investigations over the years but was never without his license for long.

The most recent Medical Examining Board action was in 2015, when Hoffmann was reprimanded for unprofessional conduct. Like many incompetent doctors who believe in chronic Lyme, he placed a patient on high dosages of antibiotics and antifungals, and failed to order regular labs.

An active ILADS member

A 2016 video featured on Hoffmann’s web site states that he was “an active member of the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society.” ILADS is a pseudoscience group that promotes diagnoses and treatments unrecognized by mainstream science-based medical experts.

In 2010, the Healthcare Protection Agency of UK–after noting the vulnerability of patients “desperate for an explanation and possible cure for their illnesses”– issued scathing conclusions about guidelines issued by ILADS:

  • The ILADS guidelines are not evidence-based and are poorly constructed.
  • Application of the ILADS guidelines’ poorly defined case definitions will result in a very high risk of misdiagnosis.
  • Use of ILADS guidelines’ vague treatment recommendations, including prolonged use of antibiotics, has potentially serious consequences.
  • Patients misdiagnosed with Lyme disease risk losing opportunities for diagnosis and treatment of other conditions. They also risk serious physical, psychological social and financial adverse events.

Alcoholism endangers patients

In 1992, Hoffmann consumed four drinks while on call and then attended to a patient at a hospital. After this egregious behavior, he enrolled in the Wisconsin “Impaired Professionals Procedure“. Hoffmann was required to stop drinking but regularly consumed alcohol anyway.

In 1997, Hoffmann spent over two months at an in-patient treatment program for alcoholism. After treatment, the Wisconsin Medical Examining Board issued an Order that suspended his license for 5 years but stayed the suspension until 3 board meetings later. Hoffmann was allowed to practice medicine but was required to apply for additional stays of the suspension as long as he complied with various conditions.

According to the Board:

Among other conditions, Dr. Hoffmann was required to enroll and successfully participate in a drug and alcohol treatment program satisfactory to the board, including participation in individual or group therapy on at least a weekly basis; to participate in AA or NA meetings at least once per week; to submit to drug and alcohol screens on a twice-weekly basis; and to be responsible for submission of quarterly practice and therapy reports.

Failure to comply with conditions, driving while intoxicated, and license suspension

After the conditions were imposed, things did not get off to a good start. Hoffmann did not see his therapist or even tell him about the Board’s Order for months. But the Board still stayed his suspension, letting him continue to practice medicine.

At a September 24, 1998 Board meeting, Hoffmann revealed that his alcoholism had relapsed and he was cited for driving while intoxicated. Nonetheless, the Board still stayed his suspension, letting him continue to practice medicine.

At the December 16, 1998 Board meeting, things changed:

The board at that time was presented with evidence that Dr. Hoffmann had again violated the terms and conditions of his limited license; including failure to participate in therapy sessions a minimum of once each week, failure to attend alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings at least once per week, and failure to provide for timely reports by his Supervising Health Care Provider.

Finally, the Board suspended Hoffman’s license to practice medicine, but only for one month!

The Board allowed Hoffmann to continue practicing medicine until he opted to retired in June 2000. He surrendered his license, removing the need to comply with the conditions imposed on him.

Another suspension

In January 2002, the Board allowed Hoffmann to practice medicine again under a limited license. Three months later, the Board still allowed him to practice, even though he failed to renew his registration when it became due.

On July 4, 2002, the Board suspended Hoffmann’s license yet again after Hoffmann sent them a letter. This is what the Board found:

In his letter, Dr. Hoffmann describes his unsuccessful efforts to reestablish his medical practice, and notifies the board that financial difficulties have made it impossible for him to comply with the board’s Order except to abstain from alcohol and attend 12 step meetings.

In 2004, the Board granted reinstatement of Hoffmann’s limited license to practice medicine. And in June 2006, Hoffmann’s license was fully restored.

Chronic Lyme Cult Leader

It is unclear exactly when Hoffmann started diagnosing and treating the fake diagnosis known as “Chronic Lyme.” However, given his financial difficulties, it was surely a lucrative proposition.

Doctors who advertise themselves as “Lyme literate” gain an automatic pool of customers who have been indoctrinated into the belief that mainstream doctors cannot be trusted. When they discover a Lyme literate doctor, desperate individuals will often pay large sums of money or wait months for an appointment.

But from what we’ve been able to gather, Hoffmann was a chronic Lyme doctor more for the ideology than the money. Like many quacks, Hoffmann likely believed in the pseudoscience.

The July 2007 issue of “Public Health Alert”, a newsletter dedicated to promoting all manner of dubious diagnoses and treatments, wrote that Hoffmann was being investigated.

Chronic Lyme believers organized a defense fund for their leader, even organizing a bake sale to raise money. They also inundated government officials with letters, attempting to stop their leader from being disciplined.

The Board acts, barely

In 2008, the Board issued an Order finding:

A review of a sample of Licensee’s charts has suggested that there may be deficiencies in current medical knowledge, practice standards, or charting standards.

Licensee disputes this suggestion, and agrees to resolve this dispute by submitting himself to the physician assessment process conducted by the University of Wisconsin Office of Continuing Professional Development in Medicine and Public Health.

The Board issued various requirements, including an assessment of Hoffmann’s abilities. The Board also placed restrictions on Hoffmann’s ability to prescribe opioids for long term use. But sadly, Hoffmann was still allowed to prey on desperate patients.

License suspended… years later

The next Board Order came in November 2011. Hoffmann’s license was suspended to protect the public. According to the Order:

The Board has received the assessment report dated October 21, 2009, which recommended several continuing education activities, further testing, and practice monitoring. Respondent entered into an agreement with the Physician Assessment Center to comply with all of the recommendations.

On August 31, 2011, the Physician Assessment Center issued its final report to the Board, finding that Respondent has a significant deficiencies in his medical knowledge and his clinical approach to patients. The assessors recommended a complete neuropsychological evaluation, and monitoring of Respondent’s practice pending the outcome of the evaluation. Further recommendations were made, contingent upon the results of the neuropsychological evaluation.

The Board also found that:

  • Hoffmann had not successfully achieved the objectives of the educational program required by the Board’s order of May 21, 2008.
  • Hoffmann had continued to practice medicine while he had significant deficiencies in his medical knowledge.
  • Hoffmann’s clinical approach to patients was a violation of the Wisconsin Administrative Code.
  • It was necessary to suspend Hoffmann’s license immediately to protect the public health, safety, or welfare.

The November 2011 Board Order also stated that a formal complaint alleging unprofessional conduct would be filed within 10 days, but there is no record of such an action proceeding.

Unfortunately, after 6 months, Hoffmann’s suspension was stayed and he was allowed to practice medicine again, with conditions. He was required to have another doctor supervise his practice, to undergo continuing medical education, and to pass a Special Purpose Examination.

Since Hoffmann passed the neuropsychological examination and completed the various requirements imposed on him, he was again allowed to practice. A pending complaint against him was dismissed. Many quacks can pass a neuropsychological examination, but they are quacks regardless.

Disciplined for appalling treatment of a patient

After his license was reinstated in 2012, Hoffmann continued to prey on patients, maintaining his position as a cult leader. In 2015, the Board acted again, issuing a Reprimand and various associated requirements. According to the Board’s Order:

On March 27, 2013, Respondent first saw Patient A for continued treatment of what was charted as “Lyme Disease — documented.” Respondent documented “chronic” Lyme disease with treatment since 2011 and abdominal candidiasis (intestinal).

Respondent prescribed Ceftin 500mg BID, Clindamycin 300mg BID every other day, and Diflucan 20 mg on days when not taking Clindamycin, with the plan to continue Patient A on these drugs and dosages. Respondent did not order Patient A undergo regular labs while on this medication regiment.

On January 6, 2014, Patient A saw another physician who became concerned with Respondent’s care and treatment of Patient A, specifically Respondent’s plan to maintain Patient A on the above-described antibiotics and antifungals, and without regular lab testing. The provider subsequently filed a complaint with the Department which initiated this matter.

Respondent’s treatment of Patient A’s Lyme disease fell below the minimal standard of competence by his plan to maintain Patient A on high dosages of antibiotics and antifungals, and his failure to order regular labs.

Respondent John G. Hoffman, M.D., engaged in unprofessional conduct pursuant to Wis. Admin. Code § Med 10.02(2)(h) (Nov. 2002) by any practice or conduct which tends to constitute a danger to the health, welfare, or safety of patient or public.

John Hoffmann died in 2017. Many cult members eulogized the loss of their beloved leader.

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