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From the Townsend Letter
February/March 2008


Letter from the Publisher
Jonathan Collin, MD

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In a recent series of articles, The Seattle Times lambasted alternative medicine, particularly the use of devices employed for "treatment and diagnosis," devices that have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).1 The series was more characteristic of a National Enquirer article than a major city newspaper series, and the authors' intent seemed not just to offer an investigation into the activity and usage of such devices, but also to make a connection between the devices' inventors and purveyors and nineteenth-century snake oil salesmen. With lurid patient accounts, suggestive photographs, character denigration, and wholesale belittlement of the alternative field of energy medicine, The Seattle Times could not have done more to convince readers to run away from energy-healing devices.

Times authors dismissed any possibility that there was any science involved in energy medicine and matter-of-factly stated that none of these devices had any scientific validation to substantiate its claims for diagnosis or treatment. Furthermore, the Times not only assailed licensed practitioners who use such devices but also demonized device manufacturers for credentialing individuals who were not otherwise medically trained to use such devices. The article presented the use of such devices by individuals only credentialed by device manufacturers and correspondence schools as particularly reckless.

While two devices were the focus of much of the three-part story, the
Times attacked a panoply of machines widely used in alternative medicine. The authors were particularly riled by the failure of the FDA to closely regulate and oversee the use of such unlicensed devices. They were rankled by the use of an administrative means to study new therapies, the Investigative Review Board (IRB), and its flagrant use by device manufacturers to escape scrutiny and oversight while continuing to freely sell devices. The Times investigation was highly critical of device use in alternative medicine and provided justification for a health practitioner to re-evaluate the appropriate use of such devices in medical and naturopathic practice.

Nevertheless, the truth is that energy medicine – the understanding that subtle energies are involved in the healing process – has been largely ignored in conventional medicine, despite the fact that acupuncture, which has been well-accepted in the medical world and by the media, is dependent on the "chi" energy fields. Homeopathy, too, is a traditional medical field that bases treatment on remedies that are infinitesimally diluted but yield healing through the potentizing of the essence or energies of the plant or mineral substance. And while medicine overlooks healing by prayer and manual touch, practitioners and patients observe positive benefits frequently.

Theoretically, a device is equally capable of modifying the subtle energies of the healing process and reducing pain and discomfort. The authors of
The Seattle Times article made the dismissive comment that the fraudulent devices they were concerned with were not the bio-feedback devices approved by the FDA. Since the devices discussed were not approved by the FDA, the Times ignored the possibility that subtle energies involved in healing were being modified. Instead, the authors simply asserted that a patient's husband was a Microsoft engineer and he determined that the software of the device under discussion was useless. The Times did not seek out any experts in energy medicine, assuming that no scientific literature in the field exists. In fact, there is a scientific society that studies and reports on subtle energies: The International Society for the Study of Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine. The society reports their findings in the journal Subtle Energies & Energy Medicine. Each year, this society holds an annual conference in June in Boulder, Colorado. (For more information, visit

Given the abject refusal by
The Seattle Times to consider any discussion of the science of energy medicine, the Townsend Letter will begin to review and publish reports in this important healing field. We have published studies and reports from practitioners using energetic devices over the past 25 years. Now, we will renew our focus on the use of subtle energies in the healing process and ask readers to join us by submitting relevant reports.

In this issue, our New York Observer Marcus Cohen interviews attorney Richard A. Jaffe, who paints an alarming picture of what alternative health practitioners face in the courtroom. Jaffe would know – he has represented many doctors who have come under state and federal investigation and were threatened with delicensure. A disturbing case under appeal in the federal courts, Abigail Alliance v. von Eschenback, limits the rights of a terminally-ill patient to receive drug treatment that has not received approval by the FDA. The case essentially denies that patients have a constitutional right to have access to any treatment if it is unapproved. Jaffe's experiences are explored in detail in his new book,
Galileo's Lawyer.

In January, drug researchers startled the medical and pharmaceutical communities with a rather unexpected outcome: a "statin" anti-cholesterol drug not only failed to reverse atherosclerosis but appeared to have no benefit in preventing cardiovascular events such as heart attacks. Admittedly, the study compared a combined anti-cholesterol agent, Vytorin – which pairs ezetimibe (Zetia) and simvastatin (Zocor) – to Zocor alone, and the combination failed to have any greater effect than the statin agent alone. (However, in other studies, Zocor does have demonstrated benefit in preventing cardiovascular events.) Still, this study offered further evidence to the alternative medical community that the widespread use of statin agents deserves to be questioned. In this issue of the
Townsend Letter, Ralph Moss considers another reason to be leery of statin agents vis-à-vis the threat that body cholesterol levels that have been artificially reduced by statins to extremely low levels pose an increased risk for developing cancer. While Moss finds ambiguities in studies that conclude statin-induced reductions of cholesterol may increase that risk, Brian Peskin argues that there are no ambiguities, that the statins clearly increase that risk for cancer development. Further, Majid Ali agrees that the notion of "good" and "bad" cholesterol ignores the vital role that lipids play in maintaining our overall health and that artificially lowering the cholesterol offers little benefit to overall health.

Our focus this issue is on fibromyalgia, about which regular columnists Klotter, Anderson, Gaby, Bone, Kohlstadt, and Ali offer important insights. Anne Forster reports on her difficulties surviving with multiple chemical sensitivity and offers rationales for this condition based on Martin Pall's work. Due to page limits, we were unable to print the comments of Bob Flaws, who reports on studies employing Chinese medicine to treat fibromyalgia. Additionally, we were unable to print Paul Yanick's hypothesis for mechanisms involved in fibromyalgia. We have offered both of these important articles here on

Jonathan Collin, MD


1. Willmsen C, Berens MJ. Miracle machines: The 21st century snake oil. Seattle Times. November 2007. Available at: Accessed January 8, 2008.



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March 16, 2008

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