Dubious Claims for the Molecular Magnetic Energizer

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

In 2000, Florsheim Shoes marketed magnetic shoes with preposterous claims that some of us suffer from magnetic deficiency that their shoes could correct [1]. The claims came to an abrupt halt when the company was sued for false advertising. For about ten years, similar claims have been used to market Magnetic Molecular Energizer (MME) treatment for a wide range of diseases. In an apparent attempt to ward off regulatory action, the promoters represent the treatment as research "conducted under the auspices of an Institutional Review Board (IRB) as outlined in FDA regulations." However, there is good reason to suspect that the whole set-up is improper.

The most elaborate information about MME is on the Advanced Magnetic Research Institute of Washington (AMRI-WA) Web site, which claims:

The Magnetic Molecular Energizer (MME) is a device made up of two strong electromagnets which applies a strong direct current electromagnetic field. (Although the magnetic field is strong at 3,000 to 5,000 "gauss", it's quite safe. MRI scanners operate at up to 20,000 "gauss".) . . . . If you're being treated, you lie on an open bed which moves you into the correct position between the two magnets.

While you're in the electromagnetic field, there's a temporary increase in the magnetic field affecting every atom in every cell. Some of the electrons on these atoms start moving faster, which leads to an acceleration of normal chemical reactions, including oxygen carrying capacity, nutrient assimilation, metabolic waste removal, enzyme synthesis, reduction of free radicals, tissue regeneration, and healing [2].

In 2005, the AMRI-WA Web site listed the following conditions as treatable by MME: Alzheimer's disease, arrhythmias, autism, avascular necrosis (hip), bone fractures, bursitis/tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, cerebral palsy, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic pain, closed head injuries, congenital liver fibrosis, congestive heart failure, coronary artery plague, degenerative arthritis (knee/hip), diabetic peripheral neuropathy, fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue syndrome, herniated discs, hypertension, migraine, multiple sclerosis, muscle necrosis, muscular dystrophy, neuro-degenerative, organ dysfunction/blindness, Parkinson's disease, plantar fasciitis, ruptured disc, seizures, spinal bifida, spinal cord damage, sprains/strains, stroke, and torn ligaments/tendons [3]. At that time, the average number of treatment hours, which cost $50 per hour, were said to range from 20 for carpal tunnel syndrome to 350 for brain tumor pain; and the results were claimed to be permanent in most cases [4].

I don't believe that magnetic fields accelerate normal chemical reactions or influence oxygen carrying capacity, nutrient assimilation, metabolic waste removal, enzyme synthesis, or reduction of free radicals, or generally cause tissues to regenerate or heal. If they could do any of these things, thousands of scientists would be studying these phenomena and reports would be making headlines everywhere. Even if MME treatment were helpful—which I also doubt—I don't believe that the MME device has been used long enough to determine that results are usually permanent.

Background History

The MME was invented by Dean R. Bonlie, D.D.S., of Calgary, Canada and was patented in the United States in 2001. The patent document states:

A method of treating a patient who lives in a relatively weak magnetic field such as is naturally present by using an oriented, unidirectional, DC magnetic field. The magnetic field is aligned to pass through the patient's body in substantially the same direction that the Earth's magnetic field did during the majority of recent cell division within the patient's body. The first step of the present invention is to determine what the orientation of the Earth's magnetic field has been with respect to the patient's body during cell division in the recent past. The next step is to position the patient's body within a treating magnetic field. The magnetic field is oriented to correspond to some extent to the direction of the Earth's magnetic field determined in the first step. The magnetic field is constrained to prevent fringing magnetic fields from passing through any part of the patient's body in an obtuse direction with respect to the direction of the Earth's magnetic field determined in the first step. The treating magnetic field has zero frequency and is at least 500 gauss in intensity at its weakest point within the portion of the patient's body to be treated [5].

Bonlie also patented a magnetic mattress pad, which he markets under the name Magnetico Sleep Pads. Magnetico's Web site contains testimonials from people who reported benefits in cases of arthritis, asthma, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism, chronic fatigue, diabetes, epilepsy, fibromyalgia, heart problems, poor circulation, sleep disorders, thyroid problems, multiple sclerosis [6]. The site also states that (a) magnetic fields accomplish magnetic resonance, which dramatically enhances chemical reactions in the body; (b) magnetic resonance occurs when when the brain’s pulsed magnetic frequency matches the frequencies of the various tissues and organs; (c) a decline in the earth's geomagnetic field has left the atoms in our bodies in a lower energy state, making it more difficult for magnetic resonance to occur; and (d) these deficiency states can be overcome by providing an enhanced steady-state magnetic field to the body during sleep [7]. These statements are scientific-sounding nonsense. Tissues and organs do not resonate; humans are not suffering from magnetic deficiency; and magnets have almost no effect on the body.

In 2005, a biographical sketch of Bonlie stated that AMRI facilities were located in 10 cities. However, in February 2014, the same page listed only three locations: Seattle, Washington; Toledo, Ohio; and Tucson, Arizona [8]. In 2004, I also found a paper, co-authored by Bonlie and three physicians who directed AMRI facilities, describing what happened with 14 people with Parkinson's disease who they say improved with MME treatment [9]. The report was meaningless, however, because there was no control group and the data lacked detail.

Research Improprieties

AMRI Web sites have stated that the Institutes were set up to offer MME treatment under the guidelines of an Institutional Review Board (IRB), consistent with FDA regulations, and that the IRB reviews the records of all cases treated. The above-mentioned Parkinson's disease report said:

The Independent Institutional Review Board for Magnetic Molecular Energizer consists of all Advanced Magnetic Research Institute investigators, a medical university professor and registered nurse, a clinical psychologist, and two board certified medical physicians (neurology and family practice) who are experts in magnetic therapy and are not affiliated with AMRI. All minutes from meetings are on file with the FDA [9].

This type of description violates FDA guidelines on IRB membership, which which prohibit investigators and co-investigators from approving studies in which they are participating. They are obligated to recuse themselves, and once they do so, the required quorum fails and the IRB cannot approve anything. If "investigators" also own the machine used in the alleged study, they violate regulations on financial conflict of interest.

The FDA is aware that something is wrong. In February 2005, it notified AMRI-PA that it was not following the rules because:

In 2005, I pointed out that the violations throughout the AMRI network were much more extensive and serious. FDA regulations also state that sponsors and investigators shall not: (a) promote or test market an investigational device, until after FDA has approved the device for commercial distribution; (b) commercialize an investigational device by charging the subjects or investigators for a device a price larger than that necessary to recover costs of manufacture, research, development, and handling; or (c) represent that an investigational device is safe or effective for the purposes for which it is being investigated [11,12]. It was obvious at that time that Bonlie and his associates were violating these rules.

In 2014, the FDA finally got around to warning Bonlie that AMRI's promotional claims were illegal. The warning letter also noted that AMRI's recordkeeping was inadequate and that it had failed to maintain IRB approval for the MME device investigations after February 2, 2008 [13].

As far as I can tell, Bonlie and AMRI have not demonstrated any serious interest in testing their claims. In March, 2014, I searched the National Library of Medicine (PubMed) database and found no publications under Bonlie's name.

References

  1. Barrett S. Florsheim's MagneForce Shoes: Should we worry about "magnetic deficiency"? Quackwatch, Aug 8, 2000.
  2. Wright JV. Introduction to MME by Dr. Jonathan V. Wright, M.D. Advanced Magnetic Research Institute of Washington Web site, accessed March 11, 2005 and March 1, 2014.
  3. Conditions treatable by MME. Advanced Magnetic Research Institute of Washington Web site, accessed March 11, 2005 and March 1, 2014.
  4. Estimated MME treatment hours per disease. Advanced Magnetic Research Institute of Washington Web site, accessed March 11, 2005.
  5. Treatment using oriented unidirectional DC magnetic field. U.S. Patent #6,210,317, April 3, 2001.
  6. Testimonials. Magnetico Web site, accessed, March 1, 2014.
  7. Bio magnetic theory. Magnetico Web site, accessed March 11, 2005 and March 1, 2014.
  8. Meet the Inventor of MME. Advanced Magnetic Research Institute of Washington Web site, accessed 2005 and 2014.
  9. Nichols TW and others. Clinical Observations on Magnetic Molecular Energizer in Parkinson's Disease: A pilot study. Undated, circa 2002.
  10. Ulatowski TA. Warning letter to Trent Nichols, M.D. Feb 24, 2005.
  11. Prohibition of promotion and other practices. Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations § 812.7, revised April 1, 2004.
  12. Brown J. Summary of FDA requirements for investigators who are also considered sponsors of new devices. Sept 15, 2005.
  13. Silverman SD. Warning letter to Dean Bonlie, D.D.S., February 16, 2014.

This article was revised on March 1, 2014.

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