The Crystaldyne Pain Reliever, 1996
The Stimulator is essentially an electric gas barbecue grill igniter outfitted with finger grips. When pressed against the skin, the devices sparks and causes a small electric shock. Makers of the device claim it can relieve headaches, back pain, arthritis, stress, menstrual cramps, earaches, sinus, nosebleeds, flu and other ailments.
Because of its medical claims, the Stimulator is considered a medical device. The manufacturers, however, have not complied with any FDA regulations that govern the marketing of medical devices. The companies have submitted no information to FDA showing that the device is either safe or effective...
Recently, makers of the Stimulator mailed a letter to as many as 1,200 customers who had ordered but not received the device. The letter falsely told customers that FDA confiscated and cashed the checks they mailed for their unfilled orders for the Stimulator. The agency has brought his matter to the attention of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio Eastern Division...
CLUE TO QUACKERY #1: Successful quack medical devices inspire copycats (after all, there is a lot of money to be gained!). The Oxydonor (1895) led to the Oxypathor (1910). Gaylord Wilshire's successful I-ON-A-CO Magnetic Belt (1925) spurred on the Magnecoil, the Restoro, and the Theronoid Belt (all late 1920's). The commercial success of the Stimulator has helped to promote the Acupoint Pulse Stimulator, the Piezo-DX Quartz Crystal, and the Crystaldyne Pain Reliever.
CLUE TO QUACKERY #2: Quack devices tend to cure a long list of diseases. The Stimulator and its kindred gas grill igniter devices claim to cure arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches, low back pain, muscle and joint pain, headaches, stress, earaches, sinus, nosebleeds, flu and menstrual cramps. In the field of medical device quackery, this is a short list!
CLUE TO QUACKERY #3: Quack devices rely on testimonials from individuals to back them up because they lack bona fide studies showing their effectiveness. Of course, the quacks never show testimonials like this one from an activist with the Colombia Better Business Bureau:
My wife suffers from occasional back pain. We tried it [the Stimulator] on her lower back. Her only response was a quick gasp from the electrical poke, but nothing more. The pain remained.
Next, we tried it on our children. Cliff is still at the age where he might believe what you tell him, and we thought that the power of suggestion, together with the spark of the device, might relieve any pain he was experiencing. He had a sore ankle from a playground fall, so we plunged the Stimulator, and watched for his reaction. Similar to Mom's - a quick gasp, then nothing. His pain remained.
For a few minutes, all the kids had some fun with the Stimulator, realizing that they could poke at each other without having to shuffle on the carpeting first. Then they got bored with it and played with the box it came in.
Estimated manufacturing cost for the devices is about $2. Add costs of marketing, sales, and distribution and its easy to see why hardware stores sell gas grill igniters for under $5. Quacks are selling these devices as medical cures for $30-$139! What a profit margin!
Gas Grill Igniter Links
Questions about medical devices? Check with these free sources:
Quick Links to Electrical Quackery
Museum of Questionable Medical Devices