$12.95 comes to $3,800

$12.95 comes to $3,800

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Dear Jonar,

Thank you for your help. As promised, here is my story that I would like to share with your readers.

While reading a Chinese newspaper, I saw an ad from Mr Sam Cohen’s Institute of Hair Regrowth & Beauty. So I went to see Mr Cohen and he led me to believe that he has a special herbal formula. His fee was $4900 but said that if I signed up straight away, he will reduce it to $3800. I paid using my credit card on the spot and was told that he would post the topical solution to me. I work in the city so I offered to pick them up. I signed up on the 24th of January 2011 and picked up the first bottle of topical solution on the 4th of February 2011. He said the rest of the 11 bottles would be available to pick up in 10-14 days.

When I went home, I was very excited about the whole thing and couldn’t wait to apply the solution to my head. According to Sam, it was his secret formula of natural herbal extracts that actually work. I therefore expected to see some brown or dark liquid like most herbal liquids I’ve seen when I was in China. However when I opened the bottle, I found clear liquid inside – and it smelt like some kind of chemicals. I then had a big question mark in my head – are herbal liquids supposed to be clear? At that time the word “Minoxidil 5%” on the bottle (see pictures below) didn’t make any sense to me – I thought it is just the name of the product. I did not know what Minoxidil was.

[Note from Jonar: The photo above shows that Sam Cohen now engages the services of a new pharmacist because I am led to believe that his previous long-time pharmacist terminated the relationship after he learned about Sam’s methods. Sam then utilised the services of a Pharmacist in Pitt Street, which I also suspect he no longer uses after the police raid that might have implicated that pharmacist in some misconduct. So now we see a new pharmacist by the name of Mr Elias Juanas of Elias Pharmacy Fairfield who, for some inexplicable reason, was convinced by Sam to place the words ‘Institute of Hair Regrowth & Beauty’ on the label. Why would any pharmacy do this? Sam wants his clients to believe that the bottle is somehow specially formulated for IHRB. Sam wants people to believe that the contents and ingredients are his intellectual property. Why did the pharmacist not realise that by placing IHRB’s name on the bottle, he is collaborating with Sam Cohen to perpetuate a lie about special secret Indian Curries and Herbs? A Compounding Pharmacist is not permitted to compound for bulk sales, therefore, for whom were these bottles made? Ron did not have a doctor’s prescription. Furthermore, who is ‘Dr Casual Doctor’? However, my favourite little trick on this label is the number on the right hand side that says 345.00. I suspect that this is used by Sam to suggest that the bottle’s retail price is $345, when in fact, such a formulation would sell for less than $13, unless it contained those secret 12 to 13 herbs and Vitamin A — but would the Pharmacist confirm their existence? By the way, note that the label says, ‘To be used as directed by your doctor R A’. What does that mean? What doctor? Ron had no doctor. Sam was the one prescribing this. Sam was the one directing the patient. This is completely illegal. Sam always writes the words ‘script’ and ‘doctor’ and ‘prescribed’ all over the place as if we are all stupid or something. He knows that a doctor should have been involved so he writes this on the label so that when a client complains, he will say that they must take up any complaint with their doctor. It is a vicious and gross disregard to the law and an underhanded dirty game that he plays to keep telling the authorities that he is not a doctor and that the client should sue the doctor. Mr Cohen is grossly negligent and culpable yet he thinks that he is clever and we are stupid! The pharmacist later admitted that this bottle contains Vitamin A which is really Retin-A which is a prescription only product. Ron had no prescription for Minoxidil nor Retin-A. Why did the label not show that it contained Retin-A? Sam wants to avoid complications. He is lying to clients and he had convinced the pharmacist to collude with him. Also note the word (MALE) in brackets. Guess why that’s there? Minoxidil does not come in various gender formulations. Men and women do use Minoxidil. However, this bottle has now been confirmed to illegally have Retin-A in it, without the client’s knowledge. The word (MALE) is there to remind Sam and the pharmacist that it also contains Retin-A which makes it more than illegal to ever give this to women, just in case they are pregnant.]

With this question mark in my head, I started my search on the Internet and came across a number of websites explaining the side-effects of Minoxidil. I have also found many ads that other pharmacists put to sell the same product “Minoxidil 5%” at a price of $12.95 per bottle. I then started to type “Institute of Hair Regrowth & Beauty review” on Google and tried to obtain some other users’ feedback… I was very disappointed and surprised to have found the NSW Health Department’s warning and Media Release about the Institute of Hair Regrowth & Beauty being served with a Prohibition Order. I also saw your website that details some of Sam’s misconduct. From the NSW Health Department’s warning, I learnt that Minoxidil 5% is a pharmacy-only product and in NSW the only legal way to get it is from a pharmacy. At the time, when I saw all these warnings, I deeply regretted that I did not know or was not told of this situation before I paid. I was also confused – because Sam emphasised that his products had no side effects at all.

On the following day, I took all my concerns to health experts in my company; including a former GP, former public officer, health fraud investigator and some analysts with knowledge of pharmaceutical legislations. Following their advice, I contacted HCCC (Health Care Complaints Commission) to have a better understanding of the background of the public health warning they issued. One thing I learnt from them is I should stop putting anything into my system until I clearly understand what the potential side effects are and take professional medical advice to decide whether I would like to take the risk.

I still didn’t give up on Sam – I wished it was a misunderstanding because I am not a native English speaker. So I sent him an email asking whether there is anything else in the topical solution he gave me besides 5% Minoxidil (I wish I didn’t pay $3,800 for 12 bottles of products that I can get at $12.95 per bottle somewhere else (but in fact he had taken my money and given me only one bottle, while an investigation was hanging over his head, which might result in closing him down, so in effect, I would have paid $3800 for a bottle I can buy at retail for $12.95, and I wonder what it would cost him at wholesale). In my email to Sam, I also reminded him that he had told me that I was supposedly paying for his secret Indian herbs and natural extract that he supposedly discovered from his research, and that these herbs were successful in regrowing hair. Sam did not respond in writing. Instead, he phoned me and said that there are herbal extracts and Vitamin A in the solution he gave me, and he couldn’t/wouldn’t tell me exactly what they are because he said that it was ‘his trade secret’. He also said that I should also have nothing to worry about because his topical solution has no side effects at all.

Honestly, at first I didn’t 100% believe what you said on your website when I first found it – I thought people can say whatever they want on the Internet with no credibility. But after consulting with my colleagues who have experience in dealing with health misconduct and legislation; as well as double checking with Sam himself who again denied any possible side effects in his products, I was convinced that you are right – I then contacted you on the same day, and thanks for all the information and assistance you have offered since then.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, below is the text from my letter to Mr Cohen seeking a refund – I would like to share it with your readers too. After I emailed him a copy of this letter on 15 February, he then wrote an email on the same day, and in that email, once again, he misled me once again (point blank) by insisting, in writing, that he did not give me a pharmacy-only product. In that same email, he repeated his business history and how many successful cases he had with this solution. He did not address whether he is authorised to sell pharmacy-only products, and he did not explain why he repeatedly said that there were no side-effects during his consultations and again by phone. Mr Cohen claims that his natural extracts are his trade secret and should not be disclosed. He used KFC herbs and spices as an example, saying, “Do you know the 11 herbs and spices of Kentucky Fried Chicken that you eat?”

By the way Jonar, for you and your readers’ information, The Coca-Cola formula is The Coca-Cola Company’s secret recipe for Coca-Cola, and yes it is a closely held trade secret, but even Coca-Cola lists its ingredients on its products, as it is required by law. And I found out that the law requires pharmaceutical products to list the ingredients. Having a trade secret does not mean you are not required to disclose the ingredients. Sam’s bottle showed no ingredients, yet Sam will insist that it contain 12 to 13 herbs and Vitamin A, and that was only after I had to ask him, and still he would not prove to me that they exist or mention what they are.

Sam also insists there are natural extracts in his solution and he even tried to make me believe that I didn’t get a pharmacy-only product. This is not true. I was given a pharmacy-only product, but to contradict this, Sam wrote in his email that I was only issued with a bottle of Monoxidil-FREE solution containing only natural extracts. With the pictures above, I would prefer your readers to judge for themselves what the bottle contains. By disagreeing with all my allegations, which he believes were guided by your website, but in fact that was not so. Sam then asked me to bring back all the products to give me a cheque of $3,800.

As my primary concern was for my health, and later it be came clear that I had paid for nothing more than a $12.95 bottle, I demanded my money back as soon as possible. I was not interested in responding to his email because most of his points were not relevant anyway. I said that I welcomed his offer of a refund and on 16 February 2011, I returned all my products to his office and got a cheque of $3800.

That’s about it. After all the legal cases he is facing at the moment, I don’t think he realised he did something wrong at all. He left me with an impression that because he has done this for 40 years, because others in the industry do the same thing (he claims), and because he had many successful cases (he claims), there is nothing wrong with his business and the way he does his business. “Lie” is a strong word to me but when I compare the facts with what he has repeatedly said to me, I just couldn’t find a better word to describe it.

I totally understand I am lucky to get a refund and my case is totally an exception compared with all the other sad stories you have published. Initially, I didn’t expect he would refund me the money, and so I was already prepared to take this case further to a number of regulators and even court to seek justice for myself as a consumer. I would like to share my story with all your readers just in case it can be helpful to them in any way.

Trusting all is fine with you and kind regards.


Dear Mr Cohen,

I am writing in relation to my purchase of the topical hair lotions from your Pitt Street premises on 24 January 2011. After extensive research of your business and relevant government investigation of your misconduct, I now know that you have misled me. I had paid a full amount of AUD$3,800 on the day with an understanding that you were selling me non-medical products that were invented and formulated by you, containing herbs and natural extracts which you said has never failed. Now I discover the truth, and note the following:

1. Your business was raided by police and NSW health officials in late September 2010. Investigations of your business and misconduct have been continuing. The investigation progress and result, which you don’t have control on, may have a critical impact on your business’s future operations.

2. You were on a prohibition order from the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) to not possess or distribute pharmacy-only or prescription medications to clients since October 2010. It is a fact that you have never been authorised by law to distribute these medications with or without a prohibition order. You have never been licensed to dispense TGA Schedule 2 medications or poisons.

3. The ‘Topical Solution’ you sold to me on 24 January 2011 contains pharmacy-only material Minoxidil and in NSW it can only be purchased from a pharmacy. You are not a proper authorised entity to sell or distribute those pharmacy-only products to clients. Yet you sold them to me, even after all the legal issues that you are currently facing.

4. The ‘Topical Solution’ therefore has at least all the side effects that Minoxidil has. I might be suffering from side effects not listed in the Exclusion section of your ‘Agreement & Guarantee – Terms and Conditions’. You did not warn me about any of the official warnings pertaining to Minoxidil. You did not issue me with any documentation about the potentially fatal side-effects. I know that your Agreement mentions possible rashes and such like. That sweeping statement does not constitute the correct warnings pertaining to Minoxidil. Besides, you said that you had mixed in Vitamin-A and 12 to 13 herbs, so the result of this compound is not known, and could pose yet undiscovered risks. Furthermore, you provided no list of ingredients and no proof of the existence nor efficacy or dangers of your formulation which, no matter how we look at it, you were never authorised to sell. If you had made it clear to me that I was being sold a pharmacy only product, I would not have agreed to purchase it from you, because you are not a pharmacist.

I now also know that I have been misled by you about every aspect of your company. You charged me $3,800 for a product that I can purchase for less than a hundred, and you tried to cover-up what I believe is a scam by suggesting that you had mixed in herbs and Vitamin A. You failed to disclose any risks associated with your products, include but not limited to:

1. Side effects of Minoxidil – despite that you are not authorised to distribute Minoxidil, a TGA Schedule 2 product, as you are not a pharmacist or a doctor. You have illegally distributed Minoxidil 5% to me on 4 February 2011, without properly explaining its side effects. Based on my research, there is a number side effects associated with Minoxidil solution itself including serious problems or death. It may not suite everyone to use. In the initial consultation on 24 January 2011, I asked you if your ‘Topical Solution’ had any side effects, and your response was, ‘ No’. Then on the 10 February 2011, over the phone, I again checked with you about any side effects, having read of some on the Internet, and you once again replied, emphatically, ‘Absolutely none’.

2. Risks involved in the future operation of your business – after talking to HCCC on 11 February 2011, I understand that investigations of your business and previous misconduct have been continuing and determinations are yet to be released by the related government authorities. There could be a possibility that your business can be terminated if the investigation results are not in your favour. In this case, the 25-year continuing service in the agreement and other promises of obligations you have made would be a false claim / guarantee during my signed of contract with your business. Besides, your alleged service is a fallacy. I have received no service from you apart from selling me a product for $3,800 that I can purchase legally for less than a hundred. Selling products via lies and deception does not constitute a service worth $3,800.

3. There might be risks involved in the ‘added extracts’ you have put in the ‘Topical Solution’ you sold to me on 24 January 2011 which I picked up on the 11th of February. By referring to them as ‘secret Indian herbs’ and ’12-13 types of natural extracts’, I have no idea what you are expecting me to put on my head and into my system. I have no way of knowing whether or not these added materials are under any kind of regulations, whether they are authorised to be sold in Australia, whether it will harm my health in anyway. It is illegal to sell products without disclosing their ingredients. I asked you to disclose these ingredients, and you insisted that they were all safe herbal natural products, yet you still have not disclosed them.

I also know that the product ‘Topical Solution’ I have picked up from your premises failed to have a clear labelling on the full content of the medical solution other than Minoxidil 5%. According to yourself on 24 January, 4 February and 10 February 2011, the solution should also contain Vitamin A and 12 to 13 Herbal and natural extracts – however the labelling of this product only displays ‘Mixnoxidil 5%’ without any other active ingredients. According to ‘Therapeutic Goods Act 1989: Therapeutic Goods Order No. 69 – a General requirement for labels for medicines’, all active integrates including herbal substance must be clearly labelled.

Based on what have been provided to me, there are only three possibilities:

1. Your pharmacist inserted your secret herbs and vitamins into Minoxidil 5% but intentionally not label them. This behaviour is against the law and pharmacists’ guideline.

2. You inserted your secret Indian herbs and natural extracts and tempered with a pharmacy-issued product which you are not allowed to sell. This behaviour is also against the law as you are not even a pharmacist. And again, your tempered product is not clearly labelled.

3. Your secret ‘Indian Herbs’ and ’12 to 13 Herbal and natural extracts’ do not exist. You were just sold me ‘Minoxidil 5%’ which was produced by your pharmacist without a prescription. After extensive research, I have come to a stage that you and IHRB have engaged in misleading and deceptive and illegal conduct. I was not aware of any of the medical and commercial risks involved during our transaction on 24’h January 2011 because you masked each of them with your assurances that there was nothing out of the ordinary. You secured my trust by lying to me about every aspect of the transaction and your products. I therefore demand a full refund of AUD$3,800 which I paid on my credit card. I demand the refund immediately as a reversal on my card or a bank cheque to be sent to me.

If I do not receive the refund by 2 pm on Friday 18 February 2011, I will instigate legal proceedings without notice. From this point on, all our correspondence must be in writing as stories I have found in my research suggests you always deny what you have said to your clients. I am therefore not interested to talk to you.

Sincerely. Ron.

PS: I have consulted with knowledgable professionals including health service fraud investigators, managers, analysts and previous public officers etc, everyone of them is shocked by your misconduct and it is they who have convinced me that I was misled.

In my research I have found a website called IHRB-Story.com which had more details about your misconduct. I am pleased to say that Mr Jonar Nader has offered to give me every assistance in this matter if I need.

Note: Ron’s name was changed for privacy. However, Ron’s real identity is known to the Health Care Complaints Commission.

P.P.S. IHRB is the name of the Institute of Hair Regrowth and Beauty run by Sam Cohen of 105 Pitt Street Sydney. It is also written as Institute of Hair Regrowth & Beauty or Institute of Hair Re-growth & Beauty.

The Health Care Complaints Commission issued this statement on its website on the 23rd of February 2011.

You can learn more here.


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