Saturday, September 11, 2010

Never Forget

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Quack medical device ads make me sick

It must be the season for quack medicine ads.

Once again I've seen a never-ending parade of ads for i-Renew bracelets. I don't think I can add much to what Dan's Wild Wild Science Journal says about them, except to say this about the i-Renew "balance demonstrations": I got exactly the same results from people by having them hold an astounding new breakthrough "iridium amulet". In actuality the "amulet" was an arcade token in a velvet bag. People will fall for anything with the right pitch and a little applied leverage.

Remember Q-Ray bracelets? Same scam, different pitch. They're still around, sold for unbelievable prices, but they've toned down the marketing since they had to hand back $64.5 million in refunds and $22.5 million in net profits for false advertising. There's a superficially identical product out there called the Balance Bracelet.

The new kid on the block is the Power Balance bracelet. This one's not even trying to be credible. It's a little plastic bracelet with a cheap hologram embedded in it. The pitch?
WHAT IS POWER BALANCE?
Power Balance is Performance Technology designed to work with your body’s natural energy field. Founded by athletes, Power Balance is a favorite among elite athletes for whom balance, strength and flexibility are important.
HOW DOES THE HOLOGRAM WORK?
Power Balance is based on the idea of optimizing the body’s natural energy flow, similar to concepts behind many Eastern philosophies. The hologram in Power Balance is designed to resonate with and respond to the natural energy field of the body.
Yes, they've managed to put "energy fields" and "technology" and Eastern philosophy in the same pitch, with holograms standing in as a cheap technological substitute for crystals. The bottom line on how it works is, ancient Chinese secret. Because, of course, we all know the legendary efficacy of ancient Chinese holograms. And it's important for us to know that it's founded by athletes because who else would know more about holograms and "energy fields" than jocks who want your money?

Does it work at all? Sure, placebos give some people the confidence they need to perform at the very same level they could have performed at with confidence alone and no bracelet. These work to exactly that degree. If they work to any further extent, then it is the responsibility of the peddlers to demonstrate, through scientific testing, that they do. Testimonials mean exactly nothing.

Keep in mind please, that the hologram diffracts visible light frequencies, and faces away from the body, blocked by the plastic bracelet in which it's embedded. Also keep in mind that I've personally demonstrated similar, if not identical, results using nothing more than a brass token in a bag and some not-very-fancy confidence patter. Be it with magnetism, "ionization", holography, or just plain magic, all of these products claim to do the same thing... they all "manipulate the body's natural energy field". Obviously this "energy field" is a highly malleable thing, to be affected by so many disparate influences. I think it's pretty clear that the only influence that matters is wishful thinking.

Oy veh. These are just the bracelets. I could rant all day on the bottles in the pharmacy, plainly labeled as follows:
"These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease"
Even though they're marketed for precisely those purposes. In fact, I think I will rant all day. Another day.