Tuesday, March 26, 2013

QLaser Scam: the Dumbest of the Dumb

The headline on the tall, narrow ad in Monday's Star Tribune was enough to set off my skeptic radar:

New Medicine Based on an 88-Year Old [sic] Theory by Albert Einstein Can Help Almost Everyone Who Is Sick or Injured!

Ah yes, the exclamation point, the appeal to an unquestionable scientific authority, the overclaim of helping everyone, combined with a few stock photos and an editorial-mimicking layout. Was quackery afoot?

The ad copy that follows did not disappoint. It seems that there's an actual doctor, named Larry Lytle, who thinks putting a flashlight against your skin will heal you of every injury and illness because "if your cells don't receive enough energy, they will weaken and the body will become sick."

Hooboy. Here are some highlights:
  • Guess which type of doctor has been quickest to adopt the flashlight (oops, excuse me, the low-level QLaser System) technology? You guessed it -- sports medicine doctors, the biggest placebo promoters of all.
  • The asterisk footnote at the end of the text says "The QLaser System is indicated for providing temporary relief of pain associated with osteoarthritis of the hand.... No other medical treatment claims are made or implied." But the ad clearly makes claims, such as "It Works So Well on So Many Different Problems, It Seems Like It Couldn't Possibly Be True / But it is true!"
  • More often, though, the ad uses hedging language, which to my mind is the same as "implied," but I'm not a lawyer. Examples of hedging include "it is quite possibly more effective than drugs or surgery," "might help relieve you of any disease," "might possibly save your life," "for some people," "could truly guide them to a miracle!"
  • The ad uses the classic science fiction technique of tossing out pseudo-scientific terminology, such as "increase cell permeability" and "correct faulty DNA" (oh, right, what a howler).
I particularly loved this use of quotation marks:
For many people who know about it, it is the "medicine" they use now.
Yes, putting a word between quotation marks like this usually implies the thing in quotes isn't real. So thanks for confirming that, copywriters.

The ad doesn't ask for any money, because it's not selling the QLaser System; instead, it's giving away a free booklet that explains the system. I imagine this is a way of placating state attorneys general who might be annoyed with all of the unproven medical claims.

I wonder what the follow-up contact is like for those who request the free booklet, but I'm not curious enough to call and find out. My hypothesis is that the ad is actually a ploy to generate a mailing list of the most gullible people in America, and that's a list I don't want to be on.


My friends at Science-Based Medicine wrote about the QLaser in August 2012. I must have been on vacation that week. Mark Crislip points out that Lytle is a doctor of.... dentistry. As Crislip puts it, "and when I think of universal disease treatments, I think dentist."


Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Sounds like a tricorder!

Ms Sparrow said...

There are a fair number of folks who think that quotation marks around a word are for emphasis. So, the quotes would actually have the opposite effect than it should.

Gina said...

It can be astonishing, shocking, and especially sad to think of the people who fall for this and other fake treatments. What disturbs me about this ad: the laser is being used in surgical treatments, especially for cancer, that are extremely effective. By connecting their quackery with legitimate treatment through the name of their treatment, they are of course trying to legitimize their treatment but they also end up creating doubt about the reality of bona fide treatments.

Kip said...

it is actually astonishing how many people have benefited over the 16 years that QLaser has been availabel to the US public. Rather than nay-saying what you don't understand, perhaps one might consider researching the science behind low level laser therapy? You might find an amazing alternative to traditional western medicine. 16+ years in podction ... over 4,000 research studies. Yet you assume to know better? As they say, ignorance is forgivable, but you can't fix stupid.

Daughter Number Three said...

I was waiting for a shill like Kip to show up. How about giving us a link to a peer-reviewed, placebo-controlled, double-blind study with statistically and clinically significant positive findings, Kip?

I'll wait.

Not Well Behaved said...

I am at a seminar for this right now. LOTS of questions.....average age of their clientele is 70?!?!?! The claims they "Are" not making are profoundly insane. I am an educated person with 30 years in the medical field and this is making me crazy. AND they want 12k for this machine?!?!?!?!

Not Well Behaved said...

I am at a seminar for this "product" right now. The claims they "Are" not making are astounding!?!?!? No wonder the average of their clientel is 70!!! These folks were hand picked. I'm sure its because they all have 12k laying around that they don't need, which is the price tag on this "miracle" machine. What better audience than those who have pain and illness yet would almost sell their soul to regain their youth. And what better sales tool than using terms they likely don't understand and telling them they must take responsibility for their well being. Make them feel stupid then show them how to regain their power, for a mere 12k. BRILLIANT. OH.....Sidebar..... I am a medical professional with 30 years in the field so I do know what I'm talking about. I'm not always a fan of western medicine but I'm never a fan of misleading those who believe they need to be led.

Taufiq said...

Daughter Number three - I dont know what your background is, I am a family physician in Australia who utilises a Q laser. Your attitude is less than agreeable - calling names on others "shill like Kip to show up". Thats not an intellectual way to open up debate. Instead of asking Kip for peer-reviewed, placebo controlled, double blind studies, why dont YOU look it up yourself. If you can look at Google Scholar or Pubmed, and look up LLLT (low level laser therapy), there are plenty of double blind studies done for a long time. Please do some research before you open your mouth.

Daughter Number Three said...

As Mark Crislip put it on Science-Based Medicine,

"Like the various forms of acupuncture, there is no consensus on where to apply the lasers, what duration, what dose, what wavelength and whether or not to pulse the light.

"Like acupuncture the most consistent effect is a decrease in pain, a subjective endpoint that is subject to bias, and like acupuncture, there is no reliable and consistent effect on any objective endpoint.

"Like acupuncture, there is a huge literature (4,000 on the Pubmeds) of mostly poorly done studies, some showing effect, some not. The Cochrane reviews were not supportive of laser therapy, but note the studies are uniformly lousy."

Stephanie Gile said...

I am not a fan of the latest gadgets, and definitely not a fan of taking advantage of elderly people desperate to regain their youth (I fit into that category myself). My jury is out on this particular treatment, and I would probably not try it, if for no other reason than price. But so many of you have used comparison to "proven" methods of surgeries, medicines, etc. I have to wonder, does NOBODY pay any attention to the number of people killed yearly by dangerous pharmaceuticals with horrendous side-effect your doctors "don't have time" to explain to you? Pharmaceuticals which cannot be pulled from use until the patents expire, and the companies have made their billions, no matter how many people die? Does NOBODY pay attention to the number of unnecessary surgeries performed each year, or mortality rates in this country? Or the number of infections originating in our hospitals, which should bed the safest and most sterile places around? You almost invalidate your own arguments by a blind alliegience to an entrenched system that isn't functioning so well. Don't try it yourself, if that's your take on it, but there's really nothing about your medical fallback position that makes you experts on whether it might work or not. To those people debating on whether to use this, BUYER BEWARE!! But that same statement should also apply to prescription users! There's a reason we have a multi-trillion dollar drug industry in this country!!!

Daughter Number Three said...

Stephanie, science and medicine are not perfect, but are continually changing through human effort. They have the ability to improve people's lives because they are based on a METHOD that is based in reality. Nothing is guaranteed, no one says that, but I prefer to put my health in the hands of people who try to stay tethered to reality and provable outcomes at least for the majority of people treated (with placebos, blinding, and other technique that prevent bias).

Daughter Number Three said...

THIS COMMENT THREAD IS CLOSED to people who reiterate points made by Taufiq and Kip above, or who want to further "enlighten" us about the one true cause of all disease being "sound and light" or other nonsense.

Especially if the comment uses random capitalization, commas in the middle of phrases, and runs on in a giant paragraph. Oh, and don't bother praying for my enlightenment, either.

I won't publish these types of comments, so don't bother posting them once, twice, or three times.