Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Marketing and Advertising Claims Made by Some Laser Companies

  • Laser Power or Class: usually claims promoting the use of very-high-power (Class IV) or very-low-power (Class I and II) devices;

  • Penetration Depth: such as claims of laser energy penetrating to depths which are physically impossible;

  • Wavelength: such as 'optimal' or 'patented' wavelengths; and,

  • Unique and Patented Effects: some real classics are the 'piggy-backing' of wavelengths to achieve deeper penetration than is physically possible, so-called 'resonating' lasers, and the creation of 'soliton waves' and other pseudo-scientific nonsense.

There is also a tendency by marketeers to point to the work and words of various authors and researchers as 'supporting' or 'proving' their extraordinary statements. In many cases this type of 'fluff and nonsense' marketing is conducted by manufacturers of laser products themselves, whereas in others it is the fault of the marketers and salespeople who represent their products.

Two authors whose words have been manipulated and taken out of context many times are Jan Tunér and Lars Hode, authors of The Laser Therapy Handbook and many other excellent references. Jan and Lars have finally spoken out about this in a brief paper called 'Confounders & Magicians' [PDF: 181KB].

In this paper, Jan and Lars refer to an article written by Daniel Murphy, DC, which is critical of an article written by Robert Wertz, DC. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, Murphy and Wertz are both closely associated with laser manufacturers - one of which, Avicenna, produces a very-high-power, 7.5 Watt, Class IV laser device, and the other, Erchonia, which produces a 10mW (2x 5mW) laser. Both Murphy and Wertz refer to passages from 'The Laser Therapy Handbook' to support their particular, and very polarized, points of view, and yet both have omitted specific elements of those passages that would put the lie to the very points they are trying to make!

Another article by Wertz, entitled 'A Higher Power' [PDF: 92KB], was published in Advance for Directors in Rehabilitation, and again made inappropriate references to Tunér & Hode and their written works. In response to this article, I felt compelled to write a letter to the editor [PDF: 46KB] of this publication.

A particular case in point is the K-Laser, a Class IV laser device which is manufactured in Italy by Eltech, and they make no extraordinary claims about it. However, in the USA the K-Laser is promoted with extraordinary claims about the effects of wavelength and power density on the depth of penetration. The manufacturer's own literature [PDF: 429KB] clearly and accurately illustrates the relative penetration of the two wavelengths, 980nm and 790nm, used in some versions of the K-Laser product, yet in the USA the marketers and sales people representing these products feel the need to rewrite the laws of physics, making such ridiculous claims as "Class III lasers are capable of penetration of only a few millimeters, while Class IV lasers can penetrate over 4 inches into the deep musculoskeletal tissue."

Of course, K-Laser USA is not the only offender, as there are a slew of Class IV laser devices now been marketed along similar lines, such as Pegasus, LiteCure, Companion, and Avicenna to name a few. Not all of their marketing is so far beyond the realms of reality, but most of it certainly gives the grey areas a good nudge.

Pseudo-scientific jargonism is another technique used by unscrupulous marketeers to promote their otherwise lackluster products. By 'pseudo-scientific jargonism', I mean the use in marketing of valid scientific terms and concepts in such a way as to deliberately deceive a non-expert audience into believing there is some scientific-validity to the claims being made. It is an insidious method of marketing that has been used by quacks and snake-oils salesmen for centuries!

A classic piece of pseudo-scientific jargonistic rubbish is published by the promoter of the Q1000, a laser that is supposedly able to create '6 Soliton Waves' that allow "subtle energy to penetrate deep into body tissues to resonate cells and balance organs". In itself this is an extraordinary mouthful of  pseudo-scientific codswallop, pure quackery, but they go on to make it even more astounding!

Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of physics would choke with laughter at the Q1000 marketeers' following bogus definition of polarization:

Polarization is the body's way of protecting itself against unpredictable energy, such as electromagnetic pollution. Polarization is also known as impedance of resistance. It is triggered by Low Level Lasers utilizing a high power density or by lasers that are not controlled by a mini-computer, which ensures the power density and frequency are constant. The success of many Low Level Lasers is compromised by these two factors and it is important to purchase a laser that is driven by the exactness of a mini-computer for optimal performance.

The US Government's Federal Trade Commission provides the following advice about such false and fraudulent claims as this:

When evaluating health-related claims, be skeptical. If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Here are some signs of a fraudulent claim:

  • Statements that the product is a quick and effective cure-all or diagnostic tool for a wide variety of ailments. For example: "Extremely beneficial in the treatment of rheumatism, arthritis, infections, prostate problems, ulcers, cancer, heart trouble, hardening of the arteries and more."
  • Statements that suggest the product can treat or cure diseases. For example: "shrinks tumors" or "cures impotency."
  • Promotions that use words like "scientific breakthrough," "miraculous cure," "exclusive product," "secret ingredient" or "ancient remedy." For example: "A revolutionary innovation formulated by using proven principles of natural health-based medical science."
  • Text that uses impressive-sounding terms like these for a weight-loss product: "hunger stimulation point" and "thermogenesis."
  • Undocumented case histories or personal testimonials by consumers or doctors claiming amazing results. For example: "My husband has Alzheimer['s disease]. He began eating a teaspoonful of this product each day. And now in just 22 days he mowed the grass, cleaned out the garage, weeded the flower beds and we take our morning walk again."
  • Limited availability and advance payment requirements. For example: "Hurry. This offer will not last. Send us a check now to reserve your supply."
  • Promises of no-risk "money-back guarantees." For example: "If after 30 days you have not lost at least 4 pounds each week, your uncashed check will be returned to you."

Thankfully in many countries, such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada, the advertising of therapeutic devices is heavily regulated and closely monitored. However this does not always provide protection, and so it is up to the individual to make the sometimes difficult judgement about what constitutes a valid claim, and what is utter rubbish.

In all cases, it pertinent that prospective purchasers and users of therapeutic laser devices view these and other extraordinary and unscientific marketing claims as forming the outer fringes of a credibility bell-curve, where the greatest scientific evidence in support of marketing claims is located in the centre - not at the extremes.

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