OPINION: Pain and an attempt to make a killing

Buddy Gomez -- Cyberbuddy

Posted at Feb 06 2020 08:10 PM

King Phillip II of Spain, after whom the Philippines (Felipinas, at first) was named, and I have something in common! Gout! Painful gout! Excruciating gout! And, we are legion! There are an estimated 1.6 million Filipinos, mostly men, suffering from periodic bouts with this particular pain.

For the uninitiated (and the unafflicted), gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis in people with high levels of uric acid in their blood. (Organ meats, shell fish, dried beans especially ‘ginisang monggo,’ even red meat, are all high on the must-avoid list.) It is characterized by sudden severe attacks of pain with swelling, tender redness usually in the big toe or the heel. An attack can occur even in the middle of the night, from which I suffered recently. Suddenly, such as 1:00 am, rousing me from sweet slumber! The pain immobilizes. One must literally crawl or sit on a stool or swivel chair with rollers to move along! Gout is one sure way to acquire familiarity with pain and living with it. With such experience comes familiarity with anti-inflammatory, pain-killing medicine. 

The US pain killer pharmaceutical industry is four times as large as the Philippine Government’s annual national budget! The Americans spent over $300 billion in painkillers, both prescription and over the counter, in 2017 which is the latest available data I could lay my hands on. That translates to Ph pesos 15,000,000,000,000.00+ Fifteen trillion pesos! Our government’s 2020 national budget is 4.1 trillion pesos. For pain killers alone, the US spends almost four times!

What a financial bonanza it would then be to successfully slice even an infinitesimal bit off that business behemoth. Might there be looming competitors somewhere around the globe than can possibly chew off a morsel from the stranglehold that the US pharma business enjoys? Unquestionably, painkilling is an attractively gargantuan commercial enterprise. 
 
Comes now an obscurely publicized claim that a Filipino doctor, a supposed “expert in molecular biology and biomedical engineering,” has developed a ”natural biomagnetic method that completely eliminates all inflammation” associated with pain. An “unprecedented combination of useful acupressure” and “biomagnetic therapy,” a breakthrough in the fight against pain! No pills, no injectables! WOW !

A suspicious stab at ballyhoo, since the information appears as “paid content” in the internet attracted my fancy. After all, if indeed the claims were true, it would be monumentally beneficial for humanity!

In terms of viewership, listenership and readership, it is quite common that science news do not enjoy as much attention as politics, crime & violence, society scandals, war or killer natural disasters. It is usual that such stories are relegated to the inside pages of newspapers or as secondary filler portions of broadcast and telecast news. Medical science news belong to the samemedia genre and therefore subject to similar treatment. 

Unless, of course, when it is of the deathly virulence brought about by our current crisis—the novel corona virus, (or an earlier version, SARS—standing for ‘severe acute respiratory syndrome’), which we are now experiencing. The political overtones of such news even dominates public attention as we now witness, with politicians engaging in medical malpractice!

Physical pain, as we all know, is universal. It is as old as mankind itself. And so are pain’s antidotes and nostrums , the natural search for which as well as the ensuing development of curative concoctions, all marched along the path towards civilization. And who knows, maybe likewise with the wealth successfully amassed initially through snake oil hucksterism, eventually bolstered by modern Madison Avenue merchandising? Can anyone really divorce such formative enterprising ‘initiatives’ from the beginnings of today’s pharmaceutical industry? 

Pain is the human equalizer covering potentates as well as subjects, suffering pain with equal intensity. A tooth or headache for a President Duterte, for instance, would similarly throb for the Juans and Marias de la Cruz of his barangays. It is the access to and/or availability of efficacious curatives that make for the difference. A President can afford an expensive prescription pain killer like ‘Fentanyl’ while a pedestrian everyman may simply resort to a hot or cold compress, drink lots of water or just suffer until the pain subsides, dissipates or disappears!

Painkilling concoctions are inevitably also a matter of money. Quick money, perhaps? And because painkillers are in fact chemical drugs, they also cause concern for potential side-effects, habit-forming dependencies and effectiveness. News or announcements of discoveries and/or of new formulations that possess the potential to save money as well mitigate physical pain logically become an attraction for public attention, worthy of discussion. Or surveillance!

So, let us talk about the potential (and veracity) of this supposedly newly developed painkiller. It is, after all, publicized as medical science news, even declared as a breakthrough in pain medicine. It is supposed to be a “non-invasive biomagnetic pain relief method.” It is neither a pill to take orally nor an injectable. In fact, it is an insole that you slip into your footwear! A shoe accessory, no less and no more. The insole has ‘biomagnets’ embedded in it, which is most probably why the product is called “MagneSteps.”

“MagneSteps” claims to have been used by “14,000 people,” ridding themselves of “41 types of pain” during a test period of “28 days.” Tests were also claimed to have been done by the “Swiss Research Center in Geneva” showing that “treatment with biomagnetic insoles has an efficacy of over 98%.” Furthermore, the Filipino inventor/discoverer is said to have been “nominated for the Nobel Prize.” WOW!

In this era of prevalent ‘untruth,’ in these times of invasive social media fake news, what responsibility do media organizations 
(traditional, mainstream or the internet) have in assuring the public that they are purveyors of verifiable truths and correct information? What if the ‘paid content’ is one merchandising hoax, a false claim or an enticing exaggeration? Might this biomagnetic insole be one such?

The alleged “MagneSteps” inventor/developer, the “expert in molecular biology and biomedical engineering” is identified as a certain Filipino named ‘Professor Ramon Katalbas,’ sometimes also referred to as “Doctor.”

Who is Prof. Ramon Katalbas? I have searched for a personality sketch and a photograph. I have failed. There is not a square inch of news about him in the cyber archives of Google. Strange. What proud university did he graduate from? For a supposed Nobel Prize ‘nominee,’ there is no available personal, family, collegiate information about him! But I found out other somethings, though. 

There is no “Swiss Research Center” in Geneva. Also, “MagneSteps” is already being hawked, elsewhere, by another shadow group. It turns out to be just a reincarnation of an earlier attempted marketing craze known as ‘Nikken” magnetic products. Remember?

Lest any of you folks fall for the advertised allure, please beware! Lest you be one, “There is a sucker born every minute!” 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

Tomas 'Buddy' Gomez III began his professional media career in ABS-CBN's (previously Chronicle Broadcasting Network) DZQL-Radio Reloj in 1957, after which he spent 25 years with the Ayala Group.

In 1986, then Pres. Cory Aquino appointed him Consul General to Hawaii and later served as her Press Secretary.

During the Ramos administration, he was chairman and president of state-owned IBC-13 Network.

After government service, he became an ‘OFW’ in the U.S., working as front-desk clerk and then assistant general manager of a hotel. He also worked as a furniture and antique restoration specialist.

He is now retired and lives in San Antonio, Texas.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.