Arthritis anxiety: Patients falsely diagnosed, treated

Doctor inflicts painful arthritis chemo, injections on healthy patients

2020 Hall of Shame

Patients descended into despair and depression when Dr. Jorge Zamora-Quezada told them they suffered from degenerative arthritis that could force them into a sad life of increasing pain and limited mobility. 

Except for one problem. Many patients didn’t even have arthritis. Yet the Mission, Tex. man stuck healthy patients with painful and knee-buckling chemotherapy for supposedly afflicted joints and other body parts to falsely inflate his insurance billings. It was a $325-million greed grab.

Zamora-Quezada ordered batteries of fraudulent, repetitive and excessive medical procedures such as toxic chemo infusions, all to keep insurance money flowing into his bank accounts.

Suffered physical, emotional harm

Many patients, including one as young as 13, suffered physical and emotional damage from the chemo and sometimes hours-long intravenous infusions. The invasive procedures could last for years.

Zamora-Quezada falsely diagnosed one man with rheumatoid arthritis and started treating him. The patient later developed burns on his skin, lost his fingernails and toenails, and later began to lose his skin from the toxic medicines. Another arthritis doctor said the patient didn’t have arthritis and took him off the medicine. Too late; his health problems kept advancing until his death.

Another patient was told he had rheumatoid arthritis. That person was “subjected to extensive medical procedures and chemotherapy treatments and other medications…(his) skin changed to a grayish color, he gained nearly 100 pounds of body weight, became depressed, and experienced pain,” a federal complaint says.

Zamora-Quezada kicked patients out of his office if they questioned his treatments. He hid their records when they went to other doctors.

Fraud paid for jet, Maserati

Insurance money made Zamora-Quezada rich. He bought a private jet, owned luxury properties in Aspen and other upscale locales — and had a fleet of luxury cars. His Maserati and jet had his initials — ZQ — painted on the exterior. 

Zamora-Quezada forged patient records to keep the truth from investigators. He also hid thousands of medical records in an unsecured and rundown barn. He now awaits federal sentencing. The Texas insurance department played a lead role in a strike force that helped take down Zamora-Quezada.

“Unnecessary medical tests to create millions of dollars of false billing is as bad as it gets,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick. “Patients were put through unneeded anxiety and pain so the doctor could make millions. He won’t need it where he’s headed.”