Judge dismisses provider’s class-action antitrust claim against the American Board of Radiology

An Illinois judge has tossed one imaging professional’s class-action lawsuit against the American Board of Radiology, unconvinced that the group used anti-competitive practices to promote its certification programs.

Tennessee-based radiologist Sadhish Siva, MD, had argued in court that the ABR ran afoul of antitrust laws by tying together its physician certification and ongoing recertification programs, locking providers into years of expensive accreditation with little benefit. However, Judge Jorge Alonso ruled Tuesday, Nov. 19, that both were components of one singular product, doled out in a multi-stage process, and do not violate antitrust laws.

“The court is not convinced,” Alonso wrote in his dismissal. “Ultimately ABR sells only one product: certification of radiologists as having ‘acquired the requisite standard of knowledge, skill and understanding essential’ to the practice of medicine in their particular specialty or subspecialty. This was once a one-stage process, and it is now a multi-stage process, but it does not follow that the certification process consists of separate products; now as ever, there is only one product,” he added later.

The judge was referring to the ABR’s decision to later add its Maintenance of Certification (MOC) process in 2002, requiring recertification every 10 years, after first only selling that initial certification. ABR had previously offered a lifetime certification, but nixed it before Siva finished radiology training, obligating him to re-up every decade at what he alleged were exorbitant costs.

The suit was first filed in February in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, which is home of the ABR’s Chicago testing center. It alleged that ABR illegally tied its initial certifications to its MOC program using “various anti-competitive, exclusionary, and unlawful actions” to promote the program, Radiology Business reported at the time.

Siva had sought a trial by jury as well as damages and injunctive relief on behalf of all radiologists required by the board to purchase MOC to maintain their certification. Alonso is giving Siva and his attorneys until Dec. 9 to amend the complaint.

The Illinois judge’s ruling aligns with another recent court decision to dismiss an antitrust lawsuit against the American Board of Internal Medicine. These lawsuits come as frustration continues to increase among a number of specialties, including radiology, over rapidly changing certification policies. 

Siva and his attorneys did not immediately respond to a Radiology Business request for comment Thursday, Nov. 21.

In a statement sent to Radiology Business, ABR Executive Director Valerie Jackson, MD, said: “Our certification and maintenance of [the] certification process are important to our mission to certify that diplomates demonstrate the requisite knowledge, skill and understanding of their disciplines to the benefit of patients."