Judge tosses antitrust lawsuit against American Board of Radiology

An antitrust lawsuit filed against the American Board of Radiology has been tossed out by an Illinois federal judge, claiming the organization did not illegally tie its initial certifications to its Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program, according to court documents.

This past February, a Tennessee radiologist filed the federal class action lawsuit against the ABR claiming its MOC program used “various anti-competitive, exclusionary, and unlawful actions” to promote the program. It was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, with ABR’s testing center located in Chicago. 

According to the Nov. 19 ruling, the ABR did not violate antitrust laws. By getting rid of its lifetime certification and establishing the MOC program, the board only altered one product. The plaintiff’s argument, according to a Law360 report, was grounded on a “tying claim,” which asserts an antitrust violation only if the sale of a product or service is conditioned on a separate product or service which the accused has “market power” over.

In response to the judge's decision, Valerie P. Jackson, MD, executive director of ABR, told HealthImaging: “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."

Sadhish K. Siva, MD, the plaintiff in the case, was seeking to “recover damages and for injunctive and other equitable relief on behalf of all radiologists required by ABR to purchase MOC to maintain their initial ABR certifications,” according to reporting from Radiology Business.

Siva has until Dec. 9 to amend his complaint, according to the judge’s ruling.

In 2002, the ABR changed its policy so that all diagnostic radiologists had to participate in the MOC program and renew their radiology certification every 10 years for it to remain valid. Professionals with lifetime validation, however, were exempt from participation.

A September study published in the American Journal of Roentgenology found only 14% of those with lifetime certification participated in the MOC program, compared to nearly 100% of imaging experts with a time-limited certificate.

According to lead author of that study, Andrew B. Rosenkrantz with NYU Langone Medical Center, MD, the findings suggest there may be negative perceptions about the MOC related to the high costs of taking the exam, including exam fees and associated travel costs.