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The afternoon of Jan. 28 was like most other Mondays for Dr. Ronald Gilbert. After a light rap on the examination-room door, he entered to see a new patient in his Orange Coast Urology office in Newport Beach. But the elderly man had not come for the consultation he'd scheduled, instead allegedly firing eight rounds into the chest of "Dr. Ron," as he was known to patients, staff and friends. One pal believes Gilbert was dead before he hit the floor.
Accused killer Stanwood Fred Elkus, a 75-year-old Lake Elsinore barber, had apparently come to settle what he believed to be a botched prostate operation he underwent at a Veterans Administration hospital decades earlier. But while Gilbert had worked at that VA facility, there was no record he performed the surgery; the Gilbert family attorney believes another urologist with a similar name treated Elkus.
Dr. Ron's patients and friends have since described him as deeply religious, down-to-earth, a family man, a tireless advocate for those under his care and, perhaps the best description from his own brother, a super mensch. Gilbert was well-respected at the Hoag Hospital-affiliated urology group he'd worked at since 1993, specializing in general urology, sexual dysfunction and related surgical techniques, and he consulted at the UC Irvine School of Medicine.
He was not a stereotypical country-club doctor. He had to fit patient rounds in with his other medical interests and personal obligations. Because nothing else out there seemed to work, for 20 years, Gilbert worked on a remedy for a problem he saw throughout his career: premature ejaculation (PE).
There are advertisements on television every hour of the day for prescription and non-prescription drugs that get men hard. But as Gilbert saw it, men shooting their loads too quickly was a far more prevalent problem, with estimates it affects one-third of the guys out there. Meanwhile, only 9 percent seek medical help.
Experts agree PE is most likely a mental issue, and it has been treated in the past with mood alterers that can have nasty side effects, including lost sexual desire. Another treatment typically involves numbing agents applied directly to the penis that can rob the man and his partner of sensation.
Through his years of experience, Gilbert agreed that a topical agent was the best way to treat the problem, so he worked on a product that would absorb through the skin to the most sensitive areas of the penis, provide the man with maximum sensation and not numb the partner at all. By now you may have seen the online ads for his patented Promescent by Absorption Pharmaceuticals, which is billed as the first Food and Drug Administration-approved treatment for PE. In gel or spray form, the product has actually been on the market for two years and talked up nationally on Dr. Oz and The Doctors. It is quickly establishing itself in the urological community.
All of which should make Absorption Pharmaceuticals CEO Jeff Abraham the happiest clam around. But while the executive sees his company poised to do such boffo business it will likely be scooped up by a pharmaceutical giant that will pay him, Gilbert's survivors and other investors tens of millions of dollars, Abraham swears he cannot enjoy the moment. Not with someone very important missing.
"Everyone says Ron would love the success we're having, but I will always believe he should be here to enjoy it," Abraham says by phone from his new home north of Las Vegas, where he moved because the memories around Huntington Beach where he and Gilbert lived are too difficult to endure. "People say he's in a better place. Bullshit. He needs to be right here. This was his dream."
Abraham, a veteran entrepreneur who had no experience in the medical field when he partnered up with his friend and personal urologist, can switch from a depressed tone to that of a carnival barker when he describes Absorption Pharmaceuticals' "exponential growth" since he took the company over on June 1, 2011 (sales of $220 per month to $100,000 per month, he claims), and being courted by large companies who wouldn't take his phone calls before ("We're waiting until we get an offer we can't refuse, probably within six to eight months").
But he cannot talk long about his company's success before it all comes back to Gilbert, whose only flaw in the CEO's mind was not having a head for business.
"Ron, like me, was not from a wealthy family," Abraham mentions. "We worked our way up. It was not like being a physician was his meal ticket. He was starting to enter an era where his earnings were going up. And then this tragic event . . ."
Abraham says he was semi-retired when Gilbert mentioned the PE remedy he was working on, with visions of late-night ads and infomercials akin to those of non-prescription boner-pill hawkers. The businessman says he crunched the numbers and became convinced Promescent could take off like Viagra did years earlier—with FDA approval, but without a prescription. It is currently available from 1,000 urologists nationwide or directly from Absorption Pharmaceuticals (www.promescent.com).
"I have had and continue to have very good results with this product for men with premature ejaculation," writes Dr. Laurence A. Levine, one of the country's most respected urologists and a professor of urology at Rush University in Chicago, in an email to the Weekly. "This problem is far more prevalent than previously thought and affects up to 30 percent of men, regardless of age, etc. I have had men who have failed all other approaches to this problem and had great results with Promescent."
Levine added that the medication acts quickly, is easily accessible and can cost as low as $3 per dose. "As you can tell, I'm pretty excited about the product," he states.
Reaching the most potential patients possible would be what Gilbert wanted, according to Abraham, who notes, "We occasionally disagreed about the company being for profit because he had that healer mentality. He was such a quality human being."
"Ron was a humble, generous, caring, family-oriented man," echoed the late physician's wife, Elizabeth Gilbert, in a message she left before departing on a trip to her native Argentina, which is where she met her husband. "He did the right thing because it was how he lived, not because he worried about what people might think."
Abraham says he, Elizabeth Gilbert and the couple's two sons own 65 percent of Absorption Pharmaceuticals, and while the CEO and another partner were named on the original patent with Gilbert, Abraham later had it changed so that Gilbert's name is alone on the patent.
"I have to help provide for his wife and children," Abraham explains. "He would do the same for my son. I want to honor him and create this legacy for him."
Abraham notes that if you Google "Ron Gilbert," the first 50 pages are about his murder. The CEO wants the top results to someday be the wonder drug the physician created.
"As painful as all the milestones are as we grow," he says, "I ended up saying to myself, 'I can't let Ron's legacy be murdered by a crazy guy.'"