SAN ANTONIO — A San Antonio company alleges some allergists have conspired to try to drive out of business primary-care physicians who treat patients with allergies.
United Allergy Services filed a federal lawsuit Monday in San Antonio seeking unspecified financial damages from various allergists and their trade groups over alleged anticompetitive practices.
The company provides support services to more than 2,000 providers of allergy testing and allergen immunotherapy in 29 states.
Joining United Allergy in the suit is the Academy of Allergy & Asthma in Primary Care, a nonprofit organization representing more than 250 primary-care doctors.
The lawsuit alleges the allergists agreed that “certain actions should be taken to fight back against encroachment on their turf.”
Among those actions:
- Filing medical board complaints against non-allergist physicians practicing allergy testing and immunotherapy;
- Trying to convince insurance companies and other third-party payers not to reimburse primary-care physicians for any allergy testing or immunotherapy;
- Organizing a boycott of board-certified allergists considering doing business with United Allergy.
“What it is is an attempt by the allergists — of which there are only 2,800 practicing allergists in the United States — to capture a marketplace of 50 million people who suffer from seasonal allergies,” said Nick Hollis, United Allergy's president and chief executive.
The number of practicing allergists has been declining, Hollis added, “yet they want to grimly hang on to their monopoly.”
A similar lawsuit brought in state court in Austin against the Texas Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Society led to an injunction last year that bars the group's members from approaching insurance companies and defaming primary-care physicians, Hollis said.
Among those being sued in the latest suit are: the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, comprised of about 6,700 allergists and other healthcare specialists, and the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, an organization representing some 5,700 allergists and other professionals.
Calls to both organizations were not returned.
Also named in the suit were four allergists accused of leading the campaign against the primary-care physicians. They include Dr. Gary Gross of the Dallas Allergy and Asthma Center.
“I don't know anything about it,” Gross said of the lawsuit.
None of the other doctors being sued works in San Antonio.
The lawsuit claims the defendants have taken the position that only doctors certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology may treat patients for their allergy symptoms.
“By the allergists attempting to maintain their control of this marketplace, they are in fact denying many, many individuals the opportunity to get first-class allergy care,” Hollis said.
By Patrick Danner
January 15, 2014