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Inquiry made into herbalists' practices Common medications found in remedies sold By David Hasemyer UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER September 27, 2003 A Vista man and his wife who tout the healing powers of herbs and natural remedies are under investigation by federal and state authorities on suspicion of spiking their preparations with pain and sleep medications. Investigators say the cures from "The Herbalist" were sold as having only natural ingredients, but that they contained more than dandelions and licorice root when put under a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration microscope. Agents raided the office of Thomas Hill Hardy, 62, this month. The raid followed a 14-month probe by undercover agents who posed as patients seeking natural cures for everything from cancer to arthritis that investigators say Hardy promised could be treated with ingredients such as garlic, thyme, vanilla and aloe. But in the back room, Hardy was grinding up ordinary supermarket medications such as Advil and Sominex then filling his "magical capsules" with herbs mixed with the artificial components, according to the affidavit filed in San Diego Superior Court in support of the search warrant. The case remains under investigation by the Medical Board of California and the District Attorney's Office. Hardy and his wife, Linda, 52, told customers their products could cure them or their pets of everything from little aches and pains to life-threatening disease, according to the affidavit. Medical authorities concluded the couple was illegally practicing medicine, and sought the search warrant Sept. 12. Deputy District Attorney Tricia Pummill, who is heading the investigation, declined to comment. The Hardys also would not comment, saying they wanted to consult with their lawyer. The Hardys' attorney, Michael Fremont, said he could not say much because the investigation is ongoing and he has not had a chance to review the evidence being collected. "It's too early to address the specific issues, but the Hardys have fully cooperated with the search and have answered any questions posed to them," Fremont said. According to the affidavit, Hardy's concoctions were so good that one of the task force informants told a medical board investigator that she heard "customers of Thomas Hardy state that they were impressed that the herbal remedies worked as well as pharmaceutical products." Tests by the DEA lab, the affidavit said, revealed the herbal remedies contained medications such as Tylenol, Benadryl, Advil and Motrin, and antihistamines and decongestants. None of the containers listed those drugs as ingredients, which could have subjected users to serious side effects if the drugs had interacted with other medications, according to the warrant. The investigation started when a former employee, Christie Marable, who said she went to work for Hardy in November 2000 after he provided herbal concoctions for her ailing dog, tipped authorities to possible violations. "Marable alleged Hardy blends into the herbal remedies not only over-the-counter medications but possible prescription drugs, including controlled substances illegally obtained from Mexico," according to the warrant. Although Marable told investigators she saw prescription drugs in the back room of The Herbalist on South Santa Fe Avenue, none of the samples tested by authorities at that time revealed drugs. Marable became suspicious of Hardy when her dog stopped responding to his treatments and a veterinarian diagnosed liver damage associated with heavy use of anti-inflammatory medication. So she looked at Hardy's "secret black book" that contained the recipes for all of the pills he produced for patients, both animal and human, and saw instructions for mixing herbs with drugs for his customers, according to the warrant. "Marable said Hardy would blend the drugs and then another employee would combine the drugs with specified herbs, encapsulate the herbs into pills form and bottle the pills with personalized labels for each customer," the court document said. Undercover agents from the medical board and Sheriff's Department Street Narcotics Detail went in wired for sound and video. One agent pretended to have breast cancer while another, calling herself Shannon Wood, said she suffered from insomnia and arthritis pain. Hardy whipped up herbal remedies he labeled "Shannon's Special Sleep Formula" and "Shannon's Special Pain and Inflammation Formula." When the $76.24 order was analyzed at the DEA lab, it was found to contain acetaminophen, an analgesic for treating mild to severe pain, along with other pain relievers such as ibuprofen. A doctor who reviewed the test results for investigators said the supplements given in connection to the cancer story contained Tylenol and Benadryl and other drugs. "These agents would have no effect on the immune system, but likely would produce a sense of body change that might be expected from an antihistamine to the extent that there was some minor pain," according to the warrant.
 
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