Primed by civilians, troops become test subjects
During the past two years, injured Marines at Camp Pendleton near San Diego have been used as unwitting test subjects for an unproven energy-medicine...
Seattle Times staff reporters
During the past two years, injured Marines at Camp Pendleton near San Diego have been used as unwitting test subjects for an unproven energy-medicine device.
Troops were not given a choice about being treated by the InterX 5000, a handheld device purported by its manufacturer to reduce pain by using electrical frequencies.
Micah Allison, an athletic-trainer intern involved in the treatments, said she tried to downplay to the troops that the device was experimental.
"We would have to try and find a way to explain it without them freaking out," she said.
The military doesn't know if the device works, Defense Department officials said.
The InterX also is being used at a naval hospital in San Diego, an Air Force base in New Mexico and, by later this week, on the Iraq battlefield, according to military officials and the device manufacturer, Neuro Resource Group of Plano, Texas.
The company does not claim that its device can detect or treat disease.
Col. Brian McGuire said the InterX 5000 is just one of many therapies the Marine Corps uses to treat the troops.
"It's an FDA-approved device that's been through clinical trials to meet the FDA standard," said McGuire, based in Quantico, Va.
But in fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn't approve devices like the InterX 5000. The agency only registers the manufacturer.
And no clinical trials about the InterX 5000 have been submitted to the FDA, government records show.
When told of this, McGuire said he had assumed that the FDA had done those things.
Getting the energy device on a military base was a marketing coup for Neuro Resource Group. Its winning strategy: It loaned the $4,000 machines to as many athletic trainers as possible and encouraged them to use them on their clients.
At the same time, the military had begun to hire civilian athletic trainers to help reduce and treat injuries.
A civilian athletic trainer brought the InterX 5000 to Camp Pendleton, McGuire said.
McGuire said Camp Pendleton's head athletic trainer gave the device positive reviews, so the base bought five of them.
But many Marines were given ice packs and painkillers while being treated with the device, making it nearly impossible to tell what had provided relief.
Allison said she is unsure if the InterX 5000 works. "You do wonder how much of it is psychological."
Today, hundreds of health-care practitioners use InterX devices, including trainers for the San Francisco Giants, the Utah Jazz and the Green Bay Packers, the company said. The company sells it to patients by prescription or to licensed medical professionals.
Neuro Resource Group was founded in 2004 by Thomas C. Thompson.
He co-founded the Medical Device Manufacturing Association, a Washington, D.C., lobbying group, in 1992.
The company has funded eight clinical trials. None has provided scientific evidence that the device relieves pain, the company said.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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