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.

rod roddick said...

Well, I attended a sales presentation of QLazer where, this time I was the guy "on stage" and the system worked on a long term pain in my back that had been unusually intractable for several months in spite of all of the usual remedies, including those used by my acupressurist, physical therapist, infrared heating pad, stretching techniques, and the application of the, usually effective, iNeed from Brookstone.

The inability to alleviate the pain, in spite of all the usual, time-consuming, efforts, was extremely frustrating and, frankly, depressing. All I can say is that my usual, overwhelming, skepticism was overcome by the direct result of having the QLazer applied to that specific area of pain on my back, as well as the immediate area surrounding the "epicenter" of the pain, and to my neck and groin during, around 20 minutes of the demonstration.

This is just one of so many affects of fibromyalgia. I have had spasms in my low back that were excruciating and were so debilitating that I could not stand, sit, or lie down without extreme pain. That painful episode, that has repeated to a lesser degree from time to time, is just one of the many effects of this ridiculous, deleterious, affliction. Today, I have similar, if slightly lesser, pain in my ankles, instep, right knee, sciatic area, neck, shoulders, and many other areas. But, the pain “moves” and other areas become affected where some of these may diminish to some extent. It is strange, but very real and I live with it, in spite of four hours of acupressure, and many hours of self-therapy, per week.

After the application of the “wands,” wherein I felt a burning sensation that made me uncomfortable, there was an immediate, significant, relief that has now, blessedly, lasted two days. I am a believer at this point. I am hopeful that the rest of the, inferred, benefits will also materialize. If not, I have six months to return the devices to get a refund of all but 25% of the $12,000 plus purchase price. I'm willing to take the risk, even if the only benefit is that I can keep this one, long-term, pain at bay.

Fibromyalgia has, for years, been, and continues to be, the greatest impediment to my health. If the, virtual, miracle(s) come to pass, this product is worth many times its price to me. To be able to, once again, swim and walk without the punishing pain that has been my experience, will be a Godsend. I am grateful that I have the resources to allow me to give it a try.

I'm looking forward to receiving the devices and will use them as instructed. Stay tuned.

Daughter Number Three said...

I've published Rod's comment because (while he may be a shill) it at least has a ring of plausibility. And he provides the price for the device.

rod roddick said...

While I understand it is hard to believe that anyone would have the results that I explained, I want to include below the preface to the rest of what I wrote. I had to abbreviate my information due to its being too long. To be honest, if I had read what I wrote, I would have taken it with a grain of salt. It is very hard for me to believe that the "magic" worked for me. I would suggest that those who have pain as I do attend the sales pitch as I did. Get their early, as my wife and I did. Identify a place that would be a good test and be the guy or lady up front. There were suggestions of what this "magic" can do that I will believe when I see it. I was called to let me know it is coming this Friday. I'm expecting nothing, but am still feeling no pain at that point where the severe pain had been. It's nuts!

Here's the opening that I deleted. I'll not bore you with the rest of what I removed, because I got my point across.

"I just purchased a QLazer. Call me crazy.

I get angry with illusionists who do the seemingly impossible and of hypnotists who have made friends look foolish in a stage act. I don't understand how that happens, but I've never been the subject involved in the "show." With the hypnotist, I always believed the folks, who were acting stupidly with the suggestions they were given, were seeking attention and, went along, when they knew full well they were being manipulated."

Again, stay tuned.

Daughter Number Three said...

I just found out that Dr. Lytle (DDS) is also a graduate of Donsbach University, which is a known quack factory.

momo said...

I believe we need to make a distinction between what low level lasers can do and what Mr. Lytle has been doing. Laser therapy can do astonishing things and on PubMed you can find 4000+ studies. I have been practicing this treatment for 30 years and know the science behind it. But on the other hand, quacks like Mr. Lytle have harmed the acceptance of this treatment modality by his snake-oil approach.For instance, there are no "solitio waves" in his lasers, nor are they better than any standard equipment.
Mr. (sic!) Lytle was deprived of his dental license in 1998, figure that!
I found this discussion while working on an article about the rise and fall of the Qlasers.Have been fighting this company for years. Now the FDA did the job.
Jan Tunér DDS

Shawn Szentmiklosy said...

LLLT is real. Im not familiar with qlaser though.
When a person gets radiation therapy for a tumor, thats basically a high powered laser to kill the cells directed at a pinpoint. LLLT is low power and does stimulate mitochondria and kill bacteria. Our sun emits radiation and can mutate our cells causing skin cancer with too much exposure. The opposite is true that small amounts of sun have proven health effects releasing nitric oxide in our skin thus combating heart disease especially in people in high parallel lines ( no sun)
Start with TED. Talks and do some research, the mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Dan said...

LLLT may be real, but it seems others take issue with Qlaser.

"A federal court has barred a Rapid City, South Dakota, company and its president from further manufacturing and distributing its laser devices, which they marketed to treat a variety of medical conditions and diseases, the Justice Department announced today."

Kathi Milner said...

Rapid City Man Sentenced to 12 Years in Federal Custody in Medical Laser Scheme
KDLT - 6 hours ago
RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) – An 83-year-old Rapid City man convicted in a nearly $17 million illegal medical laser scheme has been sentenced to 12 years in federal custody.

Larry Lytle was sentenced on Friday. Judge Roberto Lange recommended that Lytle be evaluated for possible placement in a federal medical facility because of Lytle’s age and health.

Lytle admitted to selling hundreds of QLasers from 2005 through 2015 that were purchased for about $4,000 each.

Investigators said he placed veterinary labels on the bogus handheld devices to evade review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. He and his co-conspirators claimed the devices could treat more than 200 medical conditions, including AIDS.