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Be Wary of Theratec Therapy

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

Theratec Clinic, in Apodaca, Mexico (a suburban area of Monterrey Mexico), offers treatment for amyotropic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and multiple sclerosis (MS). The clinic's Web site says it is managed by Thomas S. Sawyer.

ALS—also known as "Lou Gehrig's disease"— is a degenerative disease of the nervous system that usually leads to progressive paralysis and death in two to four years. MS is a degenerative disease in which patches of inflammation and scarring interfere with the function of the brain, spinal cord, and/or the nerves to the eyes. Its symptoms include muscular weakness, loss of coordination, and difficulty with speech and vision. It occurs chiefly in young adults and can have a very variable course. When attacks occur, symptoms may come and go suddenly and may even vary from hour to hour. MS's extreme variability makes it a perfect disease for quacks.

The causes of ALS and MS are unknown, but Theratec claims that both are caused by viruses. Its primary modality is a "Bio-Oscillating Frequency Ring," which supposedly kills the virus. To receive the treatment, the patient lies on a table and is moved through the ring during sessions that last one and a half to two hours. Massage, hydrotherapy, and various exercises are also used. Theratec's Web site claims that walking in chest-deep water "allows for the growth of new muscle tissue" because "the buoyancy of the water relieves the muscles from stress." Treatment is recommended for a minimum of three weeks.

The only way to know whether a treatment is effective is to follow many patients for years to see whether those who receive the treatment do better than those who do not. Theratec links to patient testimonials but has publshed no reports of appropriately designed studies. It has posted a survey summary based on attempted contact with 50 of the 57 patients that were treated during the clinic's first year. The survey involved asking the patient to "compare your condition now to your condition before receiving Theratec Therapy." The data do not indicate how the comparisons were made, what problem the patient had, what was compared, or how long a time period had elapsed since the patient had left the clinic. No study of ALS or MS could possbly be significant with such a short follow-up period and no control group. In short, the data presented are meaningless garbage.

Patients who have attended the Theratec Clinic have told me that the Bio-Oscillating Frequency Ring is identical or similar to the the device used for cancer patients at the Monterrey Wellness Center and that the clinics are closely connected. They have also informed me that James Garey Davidson has a financial interest in both clinics and was actively involved in their care. Davidson and Sawyer have been indicted for defrauding patients and investors and are awaiting trial in a U.S. federal court in Tennessee.

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This article was posted on June 20, 2001.