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Controversial machine still in use

By Mary Jo Melone and Carol Gentry
7/7/2009 © Health News Florida

The proprietors of the Alternative Therapy Center in Winter Haven, arrested last month on charges of practicing medicine without a license, have been put out of business.

But the Asyra System they used to “diagnose” a wide variety of ailments and prescribe costly supplements is still being marketed and used across the country – including in Florida.

A clinic in Sarasota claims on its Web site that its Asyra System can “provide a clearer picture of not only the illnesses in the body, but also the treatments that will be likely to resolve them.”

That’s absurd, says Dr. Stephen Barrett of Quackwatch.org, an online whistleblower. He's written extensively about the Asyra System and similar machines that measure galvanic skin response and feed it into a software program that supposedly interprets the readings to diagnose illness and in some cases, suggest remedies. He said they make good lie detectors, but that’s it.

“The practitioners who use them are either delusional, dishonest or both,” he said.

In the wake of the Polk County case, Barrett said the Food and Drug Administration should crack down on the use of these machines. FDA spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey said she could not disclose whether the agency is reviewing the Asyra system. In general, she said, FDA reviews matters that are brought to its attention by local law enforcement.

The Asyra System was built by G-Tech, a firm in Sarasota Springs, Utah. Joe Gallaway is listed on FDA documents as the applicant in 2003 for a permit to market it as a medical device substantially similar to one that was already on the market. It's not clear in the documentation what the earlier device was used for.  

Barrett said the FDA could not have reviewed the software that is being used with the machine, because it would never have cleared it. But spokesman DeLancey said the FDA did examine  the software. The FDA's letter says nothing about software.

Health News Florida called the company and requested an interview with Galloway. He declined to be interviewed.

The G-Tech Web site offers a video that displays the Asyra Pro software system, introduced in April. In the video, a software program interprets the electrical impulses produced by the machine into categories related to organs, hormones and other body parts.

According to information on the Internet, Joe Gallaway’s brother Mark is producing and distributing Asyra machines through NutriVital Health Ltd. in England. 

Among those using the Asyra system in Florida is Sarasota chiropractor John Lieurance, whose practice is called the Advanced Wellness Center. In a telephone interview, he said he doesn’t use it for diagnoses; he just tells his patients that he sees an energy disturbance.

“I like to stay on the cautious side,” Lieurance said. “I leave it at that.”

However, his web site goes further: “It is thought that…devices such as the Asyra can bridge the diagnostic and therapeutic gaps, and provide a clearer picture of not only the illnesses in the body, but also the treatments that will be likely to resolve them.”

The Web site says his machine, the Asyra AT3, is “completely approved” by the FDA. This implies that it went through a process that proves safety and effectiveness similar to drug trials, says Barrett, but the permit issuance did not include any such tests. 

"The FDA cleared the Asyra device ...for the indication for use to measure galvanic skin response only," DeLancey said.

On Lieurance’s website, the Asyra system is described as asking 10,000 questions of the body and measuring energy disturbances that forecast illness – even cancer -- not detectable by traditional methods.

“This isn’t made up stuff,” the site says. “This is real medicine.”

The FDA doesn't tell doctors how they can use such machines. States are in charge of licensing and supervising health professionals; in this state, the laws are enforced by the Department of Health and Florida Board of Medicine. These entities follow up when complaints are filed against a health professional.

The couple in Polk County were arrested not because they hooked people up to the machine but because they used it to diagnose and treat illness, activities they weren’t licensed to do. Enrique Vela, 68, had only a massage therapy license, and his wife Ute Marquez, 56, held no license.

Two officers went to the Winter Haven clinic posing as patients on several occasions after Polk County authorities received a tip from the Florida Department of Health in November.

One detective said Vela identified himself as “a doctor of natural health” and told her the Asyra “would tell them everything (that) was wrong with me.”

When the detective agreed to be tested, Marquez had her hold a brass device connected to the Asyra with a probe pressed into her thumb. Marquez allegedly said the detective had hookworm, two bacterial illnesses, anthrax, amino-acid deficiency and hypoglycemia. She was given five substances to take and was charged $302.

When the detective returned to the clinic, saying she had kidney pain, Vela tested her on the Asyra again, according to the arrest affidavit. Vela said she had “enzyme deficiencies,” prescribed two natural remedies and charged her $187.

Another detective said Vela told him that “he had healed many people in the early stages of cancer.” Marquez, who ran an Asyra analysis on him, said he had problems with his pancreas because of his diet; that it appeared he had suffered some radiation exposure; that he had connective tissue problems; sinus problems; and “reproductive organ resonance problems.” For this, the detective was billed $171.

Vela and Marquez, now out on bond, are trying to find a lawyer to represent them, Marquez said in a phone interview.

“We have been put in a situation that we feel is unjust,” she said. “It was a misunderstanding of what we do, and a misrepresentation of what we do.”

You can reach Mary Jo Melone at this e-mail. Carol Gentry can be reached at 727-410-3266 or this e-mail.