CHICAGO — Federal prosecutors said a Skokie doctor for years illegally used veterinary catheters on female patients during fertility treatments.
Dr. Joel Brasch, an obstetrician-gynecologist affiliated with several hospitals, is accused of using medical equipment meant for animals to perform intrauterine insemination, or IUI, according to court records.
Brasch, 61, is charged with one count of receipt in interstate commerce and delivery of an adulterated device, which is punishable by up to a year in federal prison and a fine of up to $100,000.
According to the charge, Brasch used the veterinary equipment, which had never been cleared for human use, from at least 2016 to 2018 in Orland Park. But court records do not specify how many women he used it with.
In IUI fertility treatment, sperm from a donor is placed directly into the uterus of a patient seeking to become pregnant — as opposed to in-vitro fertilization, or IVF, where the patient’s eggs are removed and fertilized outside the body.
Lynda Burdelik, the agent in charge of the Food and Drug Administration’s Chicago field office, said in a statement announcing the charge that the FDA would continue to investigate and bring to justice people who use unapproved devices on human patients.
“In procedures such as IUI, every step should strictly follow protocols in order to protect the patient’s health and safety and ensure the efficacy of the procedure,” Burdelik said. “Utilizing instruments designed for animal use in humans can put patients at risk.”
According to state records, Brasch received a medical license in Illinois in 1991 and has never been disciplined by regulators.
Brasch is board certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the director of Mount Sinai Medical Center’s Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility and the medical director of Chicago IVF, an organization he founded in 1997, according to its website.
The organization lists clinics in Orland Park, St. Charles, Valparaiso and Munster, Indiana, as well as a temporarily closed Warrenville location.
“Through advanced reproductive technology,” it quotes Brasch as saying, “we can provide the joy of raising a family to those couples and individuals who could not otherwise enjoy one of life’s greatest blessings.”
Brasch is also the founder of Chicago IVF Europe, a board member of Chicago IVF Shanghai and Medicess International Shanghai and a medical advisory board member of the genetic screening company NxGen Mdx LLC, according to his clinic.
He is also an associate professor at Chicago Medical School and a clinical instructor at Rush University Medical Center and the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where he completed his residency, its website said.
Prosecutors filed the charge against Brasch using a charging document often used when defendants have already arranged to plead guilty. No attorney information for Brasch was immediately available from court records.
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management assisted the FDA and the FBI with the investigation, according to federal prosecutors.
“Our citizens place an immense amount of trust in healthcare professionals,” said Emmerson Buie, chief of the FBI’s Chicago field office, “and the public should feel confident in the knowledge that the FBI works tirelessly with our partners to ensure that that trust is not misplaced.”