NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — More than ten years ago, NewsChannel 5 Investigates first exposed how customers of a Nashville-based hormone replacement clinic were suffering extreme side effects. The state then sued HRC Medical hoping to keep the clinic chain from hurting anyone else and to get money for the thousands of patients who were affected.
A judge ordered the owners of HRC to pay millions of dollars. But patients still have not seen a single dime.
If you've lived in Middle Tennessee for more than ten years, you may remember the commercials for HRC Medical.
Roger Wyatt remembers the ads well.
"I went to HRC just because I was very lethargic, very tired all the time," the former HRC client recalled. "This was kind of like the miracle thing 10 years ago, allegedly the miracle thing 10 years ago. Turned out not to be."
Wyatt and thousands of others turned to HRC for its bioidentical hormone replacement therapy pellets.
They were heavily promoted by the company's founder, Dr. Dan Hale, and his brother and business partner Don. While many who appeared in commercials as satisfied customers were, in reality, family members and employees.
But in 2011, after HRC customers came forward, we began investigating and found HRC had patients sign expensive contracts for this hormone therapy before even testing them to find out if they needed it. And, HRC continued to implant the pellets without any additional testing, causing some people to essentially overdose on hormones and experience extreme side effects.
One former female patient who asked to remain anonymous told NewsChannel 5 Investigates back then, "My voice is deeper and now I have hair, stubble on my chin, my upper lip, and sides of my face."
Wyatt got so sick from the hormone therapy, his family doctor begged him not to go back to HRC.
"He said, 'Even by their own laboratory standards, you've been severely overdosed with testosterone,'" Wyatt shared with NewsChannel 5 Investigates back in 2011.
More than ten years later, he looks back on it all.
"I was I think at the peak at 1,600% of where I should have been," he recalled.
Wyatt said he's still dealing with lingering side effects.
Brant Harrell and Carolyn Smith have represented the Tennessee Attorney General's Office which sued HRC Medical and its owners not long after our investigation.
"You both have been working this case since the beginning?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked them.
Harrell responded, "We have. It has been a journey."
"Why did you file that suit? we asked him.
"To protect consumers and we had received consumer complaints that were very disturbing," Harrell replied.
The state took over HRC's assets and soon after, HRC closed its remaining clinics.
"Our hope is and continues to be to obtain consumer restitution to get people their money back for a product that was not sold as advertised," Harrell explained.
But ten years after filing the lawsuit, the more than 8,000 HRC customers in Tennessee still have not seen a dime and it's turned into one of the longest-running cases the AG's office has taken on.
First, the case was tied up in court for five years, until 2017, when the judge found that HRC had "deceptively advertised" its hormone replacement therapy and "misrepresented" that the treatment was completely safe and had no side effects.
The judge ordered the former owners of HRC Medical to pay more than $18,000,000 to consumers.
But Dan and Don Hale and Don's wife, Dixie appealed that order.
While the Tennessee Court of Appeals denied their appeal, that still did not mean any money yet for HRC patients because the Hales then filed for bankruptcy.
"Obviously we want consumers to get their restitution. It is a process and it takes a while to complete, but we haven’t stopped working and we hope to get there," Deputy Attorney General Carolyn Smith explained.
Don and Dixie Hale's nearly $2,000,000 home in Brentwood is supposed to be sold as part of the bankruptcy and the AG's office is hoping former HRC customers will eventually at least get something from the proceeds.
Wyatt filed his own lawsuit against HRC.
"What was your hope?" we asked him.
"That HRC would go away and that they would quit doing this to people," Wyatt said.
After Wyatt reached a settlement with the owners, he became a nurse, and now makes sure that his patients have all of the information about their treatments so they can make informed decisions.
He went on to insist, "The money was not the point."
"Do you share your experience with other people?" we asked.
"All the time. All the time," Wyatt said.
And, that perhaps may be the best thing to come out of this case.
"I think a big part of the bigger picture to was to get the message out there that consumers need to be given truthful information. Consumers need to have that so they can make their own choices," Carolyn Smith of the AG's office said.
Brant Harrell left the AG's office shortly after we did that interview. But Smith is still on the case. And when or perhaps if there is ever any money that will finally go to the former HRC patients, we'll let you know.
PREVIOUS REPORTING IN OUR INVESTIGATION ON HRC MEDICAL:
New Video Reveals HRC Medical Sales Tactics
Judge rules HRC Medical Violated Consumer Protection Act
HRC Medical Agrees to Pay Hormone Replacement Clinic Customers
Court Says $18 Million Should Go to Former HRC Medical Customers