Category Archives: Finland

Ductor 1.1: Business as usual
(=no business)

Since my last piece about Ductor Corporation (registered also as Ductor Oy, Ductor Ab, Ductor AG, Ductor Ltd and other names) the company made several strange moves. Known in the finnish business press as an enterprise “to invest in, if you want to lose your money with near certainty“, it informed about a new investment round of 2 million Euro.

While that it is hardly new for an enterprise which took in “stupid money” investments of over 30 million Euro to develop a crackpot’s idea into a working product (offended by my wording? read Vol. 1), this time the first public announcement came after the round closed. But they nevertheless tried to make it look like a “successful public round”.

When I wrote about Ductor in July 2020, the round wasn’t there on Springvest’s website. This was also witnessed by the usual investor blogs, which told about the rounds before and after (Medixine and Multitaction), but not Ductor’s. Furthermore, the company claims the round had been active for 5 days only. Normally, these rounds last several weeks.

We can update our information to 2020 with the numbers Ductor released now.
Investments to date: 32,6 million (30,6M+2M); 2/3 from small shareholders.

Ductor is again predicting enormous revenue for the ongoing fiscal year and beyond, but this time, a new red banner appeared which warns explicitly that these numbers are as much phantasy as they are phantastic. This banner hasn’t been there before my July blog posting, where I criticized this practice.

This may well be a coincidence, as well as this whole mysterious “retrospective” investment round. But there is yet another coincidence, that appeared after I blogged about this enterprise.

Ductor Corp. has “updated” their 2019 balance twice since then. One of the updates – and that is quite unusual – contained an English translation of the auditor’s report.

This doesn’t counter a single character of my criticism, as it says straight that the balance is prepared under Finland’s accounting law, which is different from the rules in the countries where Ductor has moved its risks.

Adding to the bizarre story, this statement was audited and signed by Ernst & Young (now EY), which has been since under fire for providing the world with the worst (but most entertaining) auditing scandal in Europe’s modern history. The affirmation of correctness underwritten by an auditor, who can be duped by faked screenshots of bank accounts to sign off multi-billion frauds, counts … virtually nothing.

 

Cysteine and hangover: Finland fakes it first

Two marketing-related studies about the effects of “hangover cure”-products containing vitamins and l-cysteine were published just weeks apart. The first showed, that a certain Australian combination called Rapid Recovery does not alleviate hangover. The second allegedly showed that a Finnish product (Catapult Cat) works, but for some reason the authors claimed to have proven an effect and mechanism for l-cysteine.

There was quite a media buzz about the latter, mostly BS, so I’ll analyze these claims critically – the “upside” was already presented to the lay public. The news stories had no foundation, instead here we have a typical case of junk that passed through peer-review.

But now in chronological order:

Rapid Recovery

The Australian study was published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, which is quite new but has already an impact factor of around 6, which is remarkable, and accelerating.

 

It enrolled 23 participants (planned: 25), 3 of which discontinued, leaving a sample of 20, 65% (13) of them female. For design details: see article. It was a frustrating task to find out which l-cysteine dose was given. According to the corresponding trial registration (>>), it had been 320mg, which is substantially lower than in the finnish trial below.  However, it’s described as a trial of a certain supplement, and therefore correct to report it that way.

A bunch of hangover scales, including the standard Hangover Severity Scale (HSS) and multiple laboratory parameters were used mainly on the mornings after two drinking sessions, one concluded with ingestion of the supplement, the other with placebo.

Because l-cysteine is often easily distinguishable from inert placebo (smell! stomach!), the participants were asked afterwards, if they guessed which treatment they received. This procedure is a quality marker for clinical trials with “soft” outcomes, i.e. such as questionnaires about mood, stress, etc. These are highly susceptible to the “amplified placebo” effect: If the person knows, which treatment was given, the answer is probably biased.

There was no significant difference between placebo and the supplement in hangover severity or any other measure. 60% (12 participants of 20) guessed correctly, what treatment they were given, but that’s well within what is expected by chance and had not influenced the results.

The authors reminded, that the physiology of hangover is largely unknown, and concluded, that this specific supplement does not mitigate any of its symptoms. Accordingly, either “administration of l-cysteine combined with B and C vitamins does not improve acetaldehyde metabolism”, or acetaldehyde does not cause alcohol hangover. I would add, it was at least not detectable with such a study.

Catapult Cat

Six weeks later, another study about a vitamin-cysteine supplement was published, this time in the smaller, lower-impact Alcohol and Alcoholism journal, which has nonetheless a good standing in the field. Its impact factor has dwindled over the years down to ~2. I certainly liked it for its short name in citations: Alcohol Alcohol looks reliably strange.

Interestingly, one of the “equally contributing” authors – Maria Palmen – is not a researcher, but a professional writer from an agency in Helsinki, where she’s listed as “editor, medicines”.

click for full-text article

The supplement tested here contained even more vitamins than Rapid Recovery, which had thiamine, pyridoxine and vitamin C added to l-cysteine. Catapult Cat is also made of riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), biotin (B7), folic acid (B9) and cobalamin (B12).

The main author, CJ Peter Eriksson, is neither a psychiatrist nor physiology or addiction expert but an associate professor for public health at the University of Helsinki, who started his career in the labs of state-monopoly ALKO chain. Erikssons has maintained for decades, that acetaldehyde is the main culprit for hangover. Thus he was the natural choice for Catapult Cat Oy, the maker of this supplement. Eriksson announces straight away to know “the truth”, as opposed to mainstream research, and the source he cites for this bold claim is: the man himself.

Industry-sponsored trials are known to produce results which pleasure the sponsor. In this case, Eriksson et al have employed so unusual measures to get their output looking “positive”, that they had to explain it away one after the other – or at least to try to. With a bit of background in clinical trial design, this makes it relatively easy to find the weaknesses.

The first difference to the Australian trial is the lack of measurements. No use of the standard scales, just one Likert scale had to do the job. Acetaldehyde was to be detected with a breath test, but this somehow failed (see full text).

The sample size was similar to the Rapid Recovery trial above, which means both were severely underpowered and at the same time prone to type I errors (aka false positive). The most eye-popping difference is that the finnish study excluded women – something they “forgot” to tell the media, and it’s also not in the abstract. One has to read the paywalled full-text version to know this.

The reasons for this shortcoming are unclear, the authors give a number of post-hoc considerations, which are impossible to check because the protocol is not available and the trial was not registered. It seems odd that “participating in different phases of the menstrual cyclus” was sufficient to exclude a female afterwards, and the exclusion of at least two women (possibly six) was not justified by any criteria. So the trial reports only on 19 men, further diminishing the statistical power and casting doubt on the validity: Why not report the male-female ratio, even when it’s 90%, but instead drop a third of the data?

One could reckon, also in the light of the negative trial above (which had 65% female), that inclusion of the female data would have rendered the results non-significant and prompted Eriksson’s team to drop this part, after the data came in. Left with so few data points, they came up with another bad idea: One-tailed testing.

This problem is best described here by the University of California, in short:

 

The researchers explain their choice of a one-tailed test with the expected direction of the results. They “knew” beforehand that Catapult Cat works by lowering acetaldehyde levels – but exactly THIS is what they had to prove first. The acetaldehyde levels were difficult to measure with the equipment they used.

But what data did they really analyze? That’s, well, confusing.

 

There is no explanation of “response”, so one is left with guessing. A closer look at the graphics makes me lose the last illusions about this study.

 

The individual data used for the different analyzes change with every item. It’s always another group of participants that is statistically tested. The researchers select from item to item the fitting data. And even by dropping again such a great portion of data, Eriksson et al managed to get one significant result, barely below the 0.05 threshold. The other isn’t even significant.

The same again with the rest of the items:

To use a simple picture: If you spray a playground full of children with water, and then only ask the smiling children if that’s a great thing, you aren’t testing the hypothesis “all children like mud”. The results are useless, although there is a plenty of anecdotal evidence and “experience” that children actually like to be dirty and jump into puddles. Some may dislike it, some maybe fear the reaction of adults. But if you are not testing for the whole picture but look the other way, it’s a worthless effort.

Needless to say, Eriksson et al did not ask their research subjects if they knew which treatment they received. So this possibility is not ruled out: The probands could have guessed when Catapult Cat was given, and responded in the expected way.

If that wasn’t enough failure for one study article, I did something I shouldn’t have done. I looked up the Editorial Board of the Journal. I did not expect to find anything like this.

Eriksson is on the “Editorial Advisory Board” and his long-time colleague and often co-author Anders Helander is the Associate Editor.

Before this last point, I thought maybe the dwindling journal wanted to land a scoop with this publication (and maybe that was also a motivation). Or, otherwise, there have been faked studies going through in the most prestigious journals on the planet (e.g. the Covid-19 articles in the Lancet and the NEJM). Why should a small journal do better?

But, unfortunately it looks like Eriksson sneaked it into the publication via well-worn channels, and a buddy helped with this to make sure it goes through.

Ironic footnote:

The sales boost from this study won’t probably rescue the company, which manufactures the supplement. It freshly appeared on the public list of insolvent debtors (protestilista.com) and owes especially to Pharmia Oy, its contract manufacturer. Catapult Cat Oy has not filed any balance for the last 2,5years and is set to be struck off the trade register, or to go into liquidation by November 2020.

HumanCharger-Valkee leaving the stage

Finnish media reported last week, that Valkee Ltd. is now registered on the public list of insolvent debitors (protestilista). The maker of the HumanCharger scam devices, which has received stupid money investments of more than 10 million Euro and is chaired by the “famous” Timo Ahopelto, is now unable to pay bills as low as €1000.

The press reports show, that despite being otherwise a small and rather unimportant company, Valkee is still of interest because of the vast media attention it received in the past. This development was furthered, predicted and documented by this blog for years.

The snail media, having re-published my stories repeatedly without revealing the source, missed a certain detail. Valkee Ltd has also been forced out of their long-term headquarters in Oulu. Their website still speaks about “R&D and production facilities [which] are located adjacent to the company’s headquarters in Oulu, Finland”. In fact, Valkee could no longer pay the rent in Elektroniikkatie 3-5. The new address is in Lummintie 11 in Oulunsalo.

There is not much space for production and R&D, adjacent to a massage therapist.

The company is so desperate, it sells the devices now for $87 (previously $219). In Europe these are out of stock, no cash to manufacture any more. This is how the story ends.

Whistleblower: BEMER is an intentional scam, ruled by fear

This blog is constantly receiving tip-offs. Usually these come from people who want to reach a broader audience and, often for good reasons, hesitate to reveal their identity.

The following document was apparently created by a former CXO of BEMER Group. When I received it this autumn, I had concerns that it could be fabricated. There is the writing style – it’s a rant by someone who didn’t leave in peace. There are also minor inaccuracies where the Finnish BEMER in Fibromyalgia-trial is described.

However, using additional information and after consulting with 3rd parties, I was able to confirm the identity of the author and to verify large parts of the content. The document was converted into PDF to withhold metadata. This removed the name of the author and a former co-worker. It is otherwise unredacted.

An insider account from the heart of the BEMER scam
(Download PDF)

Main takeaways:
  • BEMER Group is fully aware that there’s no scientific base for health claims
  • People who point to the lack of efficacy & evidence are fired.
Furthermore:
  • Dr. Klopp knew that his “Institute for Microcirculation” has no credibility
  • Practically all written on this blog about BEMER was confirmed or topped.

 

In other words, BEMER is an intentional scam. Evidenced by >10 CEO changes in a few years, it is ruled by fear, and even the Gleim family suffers from the patriarch’s hand.

Konkurssi raukeaa – Ei se mitään, SpaceNation jatkaa USA:ssa

Avaruuskonkurssiyhtiöstä Space Nation aka Cohu Experience Oy tuli viime kuussa kaksi ilmoitusta. Ensin Privanet kertoi, että konkurssi raukeaa, koska varoja ei riitä edes konkurssimenettelyyn. Tämä ei ole yllätys, yhtiöllä ei koskaan ollut substanssia. Vain heikko bisnesidea ja medianäkyvyyttä.

 

Sitten yhtiö ilmoitti, että sen toiminta jatkaa Yhdysvalloissa. Space Nation olisi rekisteröity uutena firmana. Siitä kertoi sen johtohahmo, islantilainen PR-mies Hjörtur Smárason, joka nimellä PolarExpress myös laittanut Wikipediaan firmaa kehuvan artikkelin.

Outo seikka: “Uusi firma” käyttää entisen suomalaisyhtiön nettisivua, niin kuin se kuuluisi sille. Itse asiassa tämä pitäisi olla osa konkurssipesää, ja on todennäköisesti entisen yhtiön ainoa omaisuus, jolla on vielä jonkinlaista arvoa. Se on edelleen rekisteröity Helsinkiin, Cohu/Space Nationin kotiosoitteeseen.

Yritin löytää “uusi Space Nation” USA:n osavaltioiden kaupparekistereistä, jopa SEC:n listoilta. Tuloksetta. Ei ole varmuutta siis, puhuuko tämä mainosmies totta. Toisesta asiasta olen varma: Heidän astronauttivalepuvuissa ihan jokainen näyttää idiotilta hassulta.

HumanCharger-Valkee’s balance 2019: Guess what?

Finnish Valkee Ltd, maker of the questionable HumanCharger earlight device, has just filed its 2018-2019 balance. It’s the same as every year: Overwhelming loss and now again a sharp drop in revenue.

And as every year, earlightswindle.com makes it available.

Valkee balance 2/2019 (valkee2019.pdf)

Turnover has fallen by 34%, thus eliminating last years somewhat surprising rise. It’s now 637.000€, i.e. even less than in 2016/17. The effect of the US launch seems to level out. Good news for them: Loss is down to 594.000 Euro. But this means, that still every Euro turnover results in one Euro loss – as last year.

HR costs are down from 411.000 to 268.000€, and with (only) 226.000€ paid out, the question is who’s still employed by this company – besides its CEO and some salespersons.

Valkee is struggling to survive, as it did since 2007 – and now it became clear, how the project is “scaling”. It will exist as long as its investors are willing to pay. The plug may be pulled sooner or later.

That’s an enduring embarassment also for Interbrand, which really messed up by calling HumanCharger a “breakthrough brand” in 2017. The only thing that will break here will be the investors’ patience.

Over & out, as I leave this rather boring news piece to the snail media, Kauppalehti, HelsinginSanomat or whatever, for those laties who have not cancelled subscriptions yet.

Update 13.7.2019: Kauppalehti did as expected and translated this into finnish as “news”. Always welcome on my blog.

Transdermal Magnesium, Fake Studies, and a Family Business

When I wrote in 2017 about Finland’s leading pharmacy chain intentionally selling magnesium spray snake oil to its customers, I wasn’t aware of the scale of the transdermal magnesium scam.  There are hundreds of manufacturers and sellers, and there are dozens of such products on sale in finnish pharmacies.

One company caught my eye: Nordic Health, which maintains websites for all nordic countries. It has “Magnesium Sleep lotion for mothers and babies“, “Magnesium butter“, and 17 (!) other transdermal magnesium products. The tagline: “Scientifically proven“.

 

According to Nordic Health, its magnesium is effectively absorbed through the skin. If true, that would be strikingly different from all other transdermal magnesium preparations. The company presents studies to bolster its claims (click to open).

 

  • #1 looks like an incomplete citation of a real, published scientific study.
  • #2-#6 are sponsored, unpublished statements about different products (Magnesium, vitamins) allegedly done by an university. Obviously it’s nothing about these specific Nordic Health formulations.
  • #7 and #8 are unrelated studies about inflammatory bowel disease (!) in eastern Europe.
  • #9-#12 are mainly unidentifiable, unpublished sponsored statements.
    I managed to find #11 online; it’s an uncontrolled questionnare test (“did you sleep better with this product?”)

 

To make it short: This is no scientific proof, this is not even science. And it’s accompanied with logos of universities and the NHS. I bet Nordic Health hasn’t any right to use the NHS’s mark to pump up sales.

Nordic Health Sprays tells it’s a finnish family business. …but what kind of family?

NordicHealthSprays Family Business

 

But wait, there was a real study at the beginning, right? The incorrect citation was

  • Watkins, K., Josling PD. 2010. A Pilot Study to determine the impact of Transdermal Magnesium treatment on serum levels and whole body CaMg Ratios. European Journal For Nutraceutical Research.

 

Fake Journal, Fake Study – Good Product?

This study is widely quoted and reproduced on webshops which sell transdermal magnesium. Get it, for example, from the “Magnesium Health Institute” (PDF). It is even cited in papers in (allegedly peer-reviewed) scientific journals. Although it’s not found as an original paper in any citation database.

It is not in PubMed/MedLine, and no-one seems to know the “European Journal for Nutraceutical Research“. I’ve done a lot of research into predatory journals (soon to be published), but this one baffled me. The journal is not in the NLM catalog, meaning it has not even existed at any point in time. There’s no trace whatsoever currently on the net. Nonetheless, it’s widely used and cited by shady and half-shady businesses – like extempore, the customer magazine of the finnish pharmacists’ association.

 

Finally, I identified the “journal” through the always-appreciated internet archive. The “European Journal for Nutraceutical Research” has been a sub-blog on the defunct phytomedcentral.org website. It had less than five entries and was accompanied by other fakes, like Plant Taxonomy Journal, Plant Anti Cancer Journal, Veterinary Plant Medicine Journal, and Pharmaceutical Plant Research Journal. These were all used to push questionable supplements or “herbal remedies” by junk studies disguised as scientific journal articles.

It’s in a way a copycat of Andrea Rossi‘s method to publish his cold fusion junk papers in his “Journal of Nuclear Physics“, which is in fact only his blog.

What if I’d call my gloom blog Journal of Scientific Innovation?
(All these names are already used by scammers.)

If it wouldn’t be so symptomatic, it would be funny. The source is long gone, but the misinformation lives on. I won’t go into details of the study, the strange titles of the authors and the obscure “Herbal Research Center” where it was done.

And this is the best existing evidence for transdermal magnesium?

It is, according to this review of transdermal magnesium, which was also published through a controversial publisher. Generally, at the moment only sub-standard stuff like this exists.

 

***

ps. the address, where “Nordic Health Sprays” (Pohjoismaiden Terveyssuihkeet Oy) claims to reside, is a family home on sale:

 

Social Media: “HumanCharger” is comedy gold

The Sunday Times (UK) just had an absolutely awful piece on “biohackers”, and it seems that readers have a clear favourite which one is the most ridiculous “biohack” of all.

HumanCharger is trending on Twitter at this moment, and it’s not quite the way the scammers dream of.

Some years ago, one of Finland’s leading newspapers asked its readers, which is the worst product failure ever in this country. The HumanCharger won that poll unanimously. The public reaction seems now to be the same whatever whenever.

But once upon a time, things were different, when I started the earlightswindle.com-website. It is fairly outdated, but gives a good picture of the situation then, when the media hyped the Valkee device – now renamed “HumanCharger – and there were few critical voices as mine. I’m sort of proud still, for having steered the mainstream here./-ed.

Space Nation comes full circle (updated)

“Space Nation konkurssi” Google suosittelee, kun etsii firmaa sieltä. Tuore tilinpäätös puhuu samaa kieltä.

As promised – here is the 5/2018 balance of “space tourism company” Space Nation Oy (formerly Cohu Experience Ltd) from Helsinki, Finland.

SpaceNation balance 2018 (PDF)

Initial sales from the Space Nation Navigator game app were negligible: Revenue was 4006€ (I predicted 4000). The overall result is a 2,9M€ loss (my prognosis 4-6M).

Of the 5,2 million given by crowdfunders and other private investors last year, 58.000 was left in May 2018. That is probably burned yet, also. The company owed 1,2M to banks and addtional 952K to suppliers. In the books are mainly immaterial rights and contracts – such as the (non-commercial) Space Act Agreement with NASA. No substance.

Now that’s clearly a serious situation, which explains the abrupt stopping of the “Astronaut Training program” in August. The app’s downloads have come to a standstill by October. It’s not far-fetched to expect the app disappear from the Google Play Store and Apple Store within 12 months, as it happened to Cohu Experience’s first app, CarbonToSoil.

In time for Slush 2018, Space Nation seems to come full circle where it started two years ago.

____________________________________________________

UPDATE 19.11.2018:

After diving to €0,80 [ask], Space Nation shares were suspended “until further notice” from Privanet’s stock bazaar. The trade register – neither the company nor Privanet – informs about the probable reason.

Space Nation has issued new shares, possibly to pay expenses, at least 15 times since December 2017. These were now registered on Nov 15. Further diluting previous investors’ shares by 205.000, it brings the overall count to 1.708.793. Thus the theoretical valuation would now be well below €1,4M, but as no deals were registered in the last 2 months, it’s surely closer to zero than a million. Last year, Space Nation had predicted it to be one billion by now.

Space Nation Oy (Ltd), formerly Cohu Experience, has now announced to file for bancruptcy. It managed to burn multi-million investments in less than 2 years.

Valkee: Turnover up 50% – 1 million loss as usual (update)

Korvavalofirman tilinpäätös 2/2018 loppuneelta tilikaudelta tuli julki. Liikevaihdon odotettu 50% kasvu toteutui, summa on lähes sama kuin 2013/2014. Henkilöstömäärä laski kuuteen. Tasesumma puolittui. Tappio on silti saman verran kuin viime vuonna, yli miljoonaa. Firman kulut olivat edelleen €1,10 jokaista liikevaihtoeuroa kohden.

Kokonaistappio on siis virallisesti ylittänyt 10M€-rajan. Viime vuosien huimat pääomalainat, jotka pitivät firmaa juuri ja juuri elossa, on tilinpäätösasiakirjoissa s.8 ja 9. Suurin ongelma lienee se, että uudet laitteet pitäisi valmistaa tuoreella rahalla. Tällä hetkellä myynti on nolla. Tilintarkastaja arvioi että Valkee tarvitsee pääomalainojen lisäksi uutta rahoitusta jatkaakseen toimintansa.

Valkee Balance 2018 (PDF)

The finnish earlight manufacturer Valkee Ltd has grown sales of its HumanCharger device again by 50%. With only 6 employees (peaked at 21 in 2014), the company made still roughly the same loss as last year, over €1 million. It survived until now on capital shot in by previous investors as convertible loans, amounting to 2-3 million in 2 years. Ernst&Young’s accountants suspect, that Valkee won’t exist through the present fiscal year, unless it gets substantial funding in addition to such loans.

Valkee has given up on Finland, where the HumanCharger is considered a national embarrassment. Sales to US “biohackers” susceptible to all kinds of such scams and supplements go well, especially since earlightswindle.com was unlawfully removed from Google’s index* and there’s no independent information available. (I’ll do nothing about that until the content on the classic site is updated.)

Still, all independent research to date has demonstrated that the fake “light therapy” through the ear canal has only a placebo effect. The company’s budget does not allow for new marketing “research”, and it seems no evidence is needed to ensure international sales.

 

*the important static site with all the key information about the Valkee case (under earlightswindle.com/index.htm and else) was removed, while the blog is still visible.  It looks like the content URLs were removed manually.

UPDATE 21.9.2018:
earlightswindle.com is back in the Google index. It wasn’t me!