A canna’ change the laws of physics

Scotty, The Naked Time, stardate 1704.3, Episode 7

Posts Tagged ‘Phototherapy’

Quantumwave laser quackery

Posted by apgaylard on May 23, 2011

I’ve wanted to revisit the world of low level laser therapy (LLLT) for a while.*.  Back in early 2009 I gave this therapy a look, after I came across the story of a woman in New Zealand who died from breast cancer after being ‘treated’ with a decidedly quackish variant of LLLT, called “Bioptron’.

I’ve been wondering if I missed anything when I was focusing on Bioptron and whether any more evidence has come to light since.

The Quantumwave Laser website** has given me the push I needed.  The website was fantasy physics meets fantasy medicine; though it looks like some excellent ‘FishBarreling’ has taken care of most of the medical claims.

Still, there’s plenty of made up physics left to enjoy, along with the excuse to look at low level laser therapy again.

First, what is low level laser therapy?

Low level laser therapy refers to the therapeutic use of lasers, generally applied externally to the skin, delivering low doses of energy in an attempt to treat various conditions.

There are various hypotheses for how LLLT might work, but any mechanism of action remains unclear.

Typically, lasers are chosen that operate in the red to near infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum, though there are exceptions as we shall see. Because the lasers are low-powered the therapy is sometimes called “soft” or “cold” lasers.

Read the rest of this entry »


Posted in bad physics, Phototherapy | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

Red light redux

Posted by apgaylard on May 18, 2011

Three years ago I investigated claims that were being made for a red-light phototherapy device, marketed as a hay fever treatment by Lloydspharmacy.  The claims were based on a single, small, un-replicated trial with blinding problems (Neuman and Finkelstein, 1997).  Given that this is the hay fever season, I thought I’d revisit the topic and see if things have changed much.

The only new investigation of red-light devices phototherapy treatment for hay fever I am aware of was published in 2009.  Emberlin and Lewis (2009) reported “a double-blind, placebo-controlled grass pollen challenge conducted out of the pollen season, on 101 adult male and female hay fever sufferers. Subjects were assigned to placebo or active groups by stratified random sampling using responses to a baseline questionnaire. All subjects used active or placebo devices three times a day for 14 days before pollen challenge. Subjects were monitored for 2.5 h after challenge.”

On the positive side, the authors found:

“Significant reductions in severity of symptom scores were found for sneezing, running nose, running eyes and itchy mouth/palate (p < or = 0.05).”

But, on the other hand:

“No significant differences were found in the results for itchy eyes, itchy nose, itchy throat, ECPs, PIFn and PEFn.”

The authors concluded:

“The results show that the device significantly reduced some hay fever symptoms. The study would have been improved if compliance was monitored electronically and if nasal congestion was monitored by report. The mode of action is unclear. The study does not consider long-term implications of the therapy.”

In December 2009 the ASA considered whether this study was sufficient to support the claims that Lloydspharmacy had made in a TV commercial.  (You can read the adjudication here.)  The decision went against them.  The ASA’s expert found a number of problems with using this study to support Lloydspharmacy’s claims: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Phototherapy | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Cancer and the magic lamp

Posted by apgaylard on February 28, 2009

Could a magic lamp kill?  No, but believing it can cure cancer may well be fatal.  Take the case of Ms A, a woman from New Zealand diagnosed with breast cancer.  A biopsy confirmed that she had had “invasive ductal carcinoma with high grade features”.  A mastectomy was scheduled.

She subsequently decided to seek, “alternate options” after discussing her condition with a member of the New Zealand Light and Colour Therapy Institute.  As a result she received Bioptron Light Therapy for 2½ years, undergoing a total of 159 treatments, and “ended up paying quite a good amount of money”. 

Her condition progressively deteriorated and she eventually sought proper medical care.  A breast surgeon reviewed her condition and told her that she had, “advanced breast disease that [was] palliative”. 

Since then Ms A has been treated with several cycles of chemotherapy, “to control the cancer for some period of time” rather than “to cure it”. A CT scan has shown, “evidence of multiple lung metastases”; subsequently Ms A had a right mastectomy followed by further courses of chemotherapy.  She is dying. 

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Posted in Phototherapy | Tagged: , , , | 10 Comments »

My First Thirteen Months

Posted by apgaylard on October 5, 2008

What do I remember?

I’ve just come back from holiday and it’s dawned on me that I’ve been blogging for just over a year now; so I thought I’d indulge myself with a bit of a retrospective.

What got me going?  I had been lurking, and then commenting on Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science blog.  I had got drawn into the site via his weekly column in the Guardian.  I found that the use of basic scientific principles to expose nonsense in the media really got me thinking about science more generally again.  It also started to remind me how much of the physics I’d studied for my degree I had forgotten as my career had drifted into a narrow branch of engineering. 

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Posted in Blog | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Premature publication and the infra-red ‘cure’

Posted by apgaylard on July 17, 2008

Alzheimers Helmet

Alzheimer's Helmet

Given my current near-obsession with LEDs and phototherapy, I was pleased that the nice people at Holford Watch pointed me to the Mail on Sunday. As I’m not a regular reader of this august journal of record; without this prompt, I would have totally missed this intriguing headline, “Dementia patient makes ‘amazing’ progress after using infra-red helmet“.

It sounds like science-fiction.  The story reports that after wearing a ‘hat’ that allowed 700 LEDs to ‘bathe’ his brain with infra-red light Clem Fennell has experienced an amazing remission in his, “aggressive type of dementia“.  Initially he was, “unable to answer the phone, order a meal or string more than a couple of words together”.  After a series of treatments his deterioration has, reportedly, stopped; he responds more quickly to people when they talk to him; can order his own meals in restaurants; and can go to the bank or post-office on his own. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Phototherapy | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Stuck at a Red Light

Posted by apgaylard on July 1, 2008

As part of my follow-up on the single, small, un-replicated study that underpins the claims made for the LloydsPharmacy Allergy Reliever, Medinose and BioNase products, I was encouraged [Hat tip to dvnutrix] to try and get my concerns about the poorly concieved sham therapy used in this work published in the journal that originally carried the article: the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Now, as the article is ten years old I wasn’t very optimistic.  However, I hoped that the currency of the commercial claims being loaded onto it might persuade the editors to publish a short piece of correspondence.

Unfortnately, my initial misgivings have been confirmed and it has been rejected.  Now, I do have some sympathy with the editors: the comment relates to an old article, is not on a very glamorous topic and would take up space that could be given to a more recent work.

However, I do think it is important that where problems are identified in the open literature they are given an airing in that literature; otherwise how are we to trust what we read?  In this spirit I’d just like to share with you the correspondence and covering letter I submitted, along with the editor’s response. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Phototherapy, unpublished | Tagged: , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Operation Rudolph

Posted by apgaylard on June 20, 2008

Note the claim that this is Clinically provenI’ve been talking to Trading Standards and Lloyds Pharmacy about the claims that the latter have been making for their “Allergy Reliever”.   This is a ‘medical device’ that allegedly uses phototherapy to relieve the symptoms of allergic rhinitis.  Put simply: it shines a red light up your nose.

The claim “Clinically proven” appeared on their website and still appears on the product packaging (see image).  Scratching the surface revealed that this claim is based on a single, un-replicated, small, decade-old and deeply flawed trial.

On that basis I am contesting the claim to be “Clinically proven”; Trading Standards have referred the issue to the MHRA and I’m waiting to see what the outcome will be.

In the meantime Lloyds Pharmacy very kindly offered me an “Allergy Reliever” for free.  I accepted on the basis that they understood that it does not constitute an endorsement of the product; and that it will not hold me back from making critical observations.

So, Operation Rudolph was born:  a home experiment aiming to illustrate what I consider to be one of the major flaws in the trial that underpins the claims made for the product: the design of the placebo, or “sham” treatment. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Phototherapy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments »

Blind to the Rudolph Effect

Posted by apgaylard on May 26, 2008

A recent discussion on the bad science forum [thanks to Bryn for highlighting this topic] set me thinking about the claims made for the treatment of hay fever by red light phototherapy.

If you’ve not come across these claims before, they can be seen in the advertising material provided on-line by Lloyds Pharmacy for their “Allergy Reliever” and Health Innovations for their “Medinose Hayfever Treatment“.

These are similar devices that allow you to shove some light-emitting diodes (LED) up your nose and administer a ‘dose’ of red light to the nasal mucosa.  What is the proposed mechanism of action?  Health Innovations say, “Medinose inhibits the release of histamine, relieving or even completely eliminating allergic reactions and complaints in a natural way.”  Lloyds make a similar claim, “Allergy Reliever uses red light therapy to suppress the cells that release histamine, thereby relieving the symptoms of hay fever. ”  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Phototherapy, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »