Skepsis ry has awarded the 2020 Huuhaa Prize to
- BEMER Finland -
for the sale of very expensive pseudoscientific products.
BEMER Finland (Lifenet Oy) is BEMER International AG's company in Finland, that sells treatment equipment for “physical vascular therapy”.
In the marketing of BEMER devices, it is understood that they help in various inflammatory and painful conditions, migraine, cardiovascular disease, rheumatism, fibromyalgia, hair loss, erectile dysfunction, and recovery from cancer, surgery, and cerebral hemorrhage. The devices are also marketed to caregivers of animals, such as trotting horses.
There is no convincing scientific evidence to support the misleading claims. Based on the analysis performed at Aalto University, the treatment mechanism proposed for BEMER devices based on weak electromagnetic fields is also not credible.
The treatment devices marketed by BEMER Finland cost thousands of euros, and the company has an annual turnover of about one million euros. On its website, BEMER Finland attracts doctors and therapists to become full-time or part-time “BEMER entrepreneurs”.
Skepsis ry believes that it is unethical to sell very expensive products with the help of pseudoscientific health claims as a treatment or prevention of serious diseases.
With the Huuhaa Award of the Year, Skepsis ry wants to provoke a discussion about the possibilities of the authorities to intervene in the misleading marketing of non-medical treatments and medical devices. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has previously raised concerns about the proliferation of such treatments, their lack of regulation, lack of oversight, and poor client legal protection. Skepsis ry hopes that the sitting government will take a position on the legislation on faith treatments.
Congratulations to BEMER, the award is well-deserved!
This is the second time, that a quack treatment which was debunked by this blog, gets the HuuHaa Award (the other being Valkee Ltd’s HumanCharger earlight device).
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.
Things looked bleak for swiss businessman Peter Gleim in 1995, when german police seized some of the “Clean-Cards” he sold for 179 DM (92 Euro) per piece (750DM/380€ for a 5-pack) and analyzed these. Gleim had promised to clueless homemakers, that the cards would save up to 90% of laundry powder when put in the washing machine. Authorities found out – unsurprisingly – that the cards had no effect. It was a simple scam. Prosecutors investigated Gleim and his company Funworld GmbH for fraud.
This was not the first time Gleim had to do with law enforcement. 10 years before, the Munich district court had ruled his sales methods were “immoral and illegal”, effectively shutting down his Gem Collection CosmeticsGmbH. Gleim had used a pyramid scheme, also known as snowball selling, to sell overpriced cosmetics through ill-informed franchisees. Gem Collection Cosmetics got finally deleted from registers in February 1995.
When the dust had settled, Gleim set sail with his Innomed AG, which would later become BEMER International AG. In 1998 it began to sell magnet “therapy” devices via a well-known system: The pyramid scheme, now called “multi-level marketing”. It had a striking advantage over the old-school laundry card scam. When managed carefully, the con artist at the top cannot be held responsible for actions of his franchisees. The risk is distributed widely and diluted.
BEMER Group would later describe this stage with “our belief exceeded our knowledge by far” – in other words, there was no proof of any kind that the devices had an effect on the human body. Basically, that is still the case up to this day. Only one institution outside of Innomed/BEMER would claim otherwise: The “Institute for Microcirculation” in Berlin, led by Dr. Rainer Klopp.
Not much is known about the dealings or whereabouts of the “institute” in the 1990s. It only managed to produce two articles in a full decade (both in cooperation with Schering AG, a pharmaceutical firm in Berlin that has now merged with BAYER). In terms of science it had no standing at all.
From 2000 to the early 2010s, the “institute” had rented an office in Wolfener Str. 32-34 at the outskirts of East Berlin. This is where the widely circulated older videos for BEMER Int. AG were shot.
Somehow Klopp and Gleim made contact no later than 2004. Other BEMER sources say cooperation began in 2006. Klopp was the much-needed counterpart to Gleim’s rude and often barely legal business methods. Jovial, humble, and – most important – with an academic grade. The doctor would later be upgraded silently to a professor.
During these years, the “institute” produced several papers, all but one apparently sponsored by manufacturers of alternative treatments. There are studies on mistle toe extract, a “homeopathic remedy”, and ginkgo plant extract. Publication of research ceased in 2014. Articles since 2011 were not peer-reviewed and are not trustable.
This decline coincides with the “institute’s” move to full obscurity, a small space adjacent to a leather shop in Berliner Str. 25, Bernau b. Berlin, and finally the desk of Klopp’s friend and wannabe-charlatan, Professor Jörg Schulzin the Negelein Haus at the Berlin-Buch campus.
Schulz had invented his own alternative method, he called it Biokorrektur. With the help of Klopp, Schulz tried to introduce it to a wider public. Schulz’ company ICP Healthcare, shortly renamed to “Noventalis, Institut für Biokorrektur” (!) soon got under a russian management and seems to have relocated to Russia-occupied Crimea.
Klopp’s “Institute for Microcirculation” fared better. Decorated twice with the BEMER AG-backed Science Award (to Klopp in 2011 for “Lifetime Achievement”, and to his partner Dr. Wolfgang Niemer in 2014), it finally got own premises in Berlin-Buch.
Then the website of the “institute” was driven down. As it happened, I was in Berlin in early August 2019. I had to follow up what more than 50.000 readers saw to date, and took the time to find out what’s going on. To my amazement, the doors stood wide open and not a soul in sight.
The lobby had clearly changed, compared to my previous visit. Inside, it was totally quiet.
There were exactly two rooms with a few microscopes and monitors, just the appliances as shown in all the promotional videos over the last 10 years.
The rest were: a conference room, restrooms, a kitchenette, and empty spaces.
I was consternated. What’s happening here? But then I found a human being.
It was Dr. Niemer, Klopp’s long-time companion and BEMER’s Science Awardee 2014. We talked for a while.
…will the Institute for Microcirculation continue to exist, now that Dr. Klopp has departed?
– it won’t exist anymore?
unfortunately, our plans are shattered…now that the sponsor [is gone] …[BEMER] did it somehow together with him … it all was through him [Dr. Klopp], all of the contract…
– the rental contract (for the institute)?
no, the sponsoring.
Of course the “institute” could not and would not exist without BEMER AG, although Klopp maintained for years on their homepage, that it’d be “completely independent”. Now, in hindsight it was confirmed how the axis Gleim – Klopp handled those things.
Then there were some words about Finland and the visit of a finnish “delegation” earlier this year. The finnish athletes have been of certain importance and the “community” here is “diligent”. Niemer did not recall if he saw me then or not (article in finnish at BEMER Nordic, with the usual pictures of the equipment, written free from any competence).
I left with a sad feeling, Dr. Niemer was contagiously resignated and depressed. Gleim had broken the promise he gave upon the death of his “dear friend” and kicked the short-lived facility out. There is hardly any other conclusion: For representation, he needed Klopp, not any institute. Fortunately, it’s not a big loss for science.
R.I.P. “Institute for Microcirculation”, Berlin-Buch, 2018 – 2019.
Dr. Rainer Klopp, inventor of the BEMER method, has died. On Monday, May 6th, a sudden peak in blog visitor numbers indicated something has happened, and soon there were the first obituaries on Facebook and elsewhere.
One of these can be read on IMIN-org.eu, the website of the “International Microvascular Net”. Despite its name and self-description, it has nothing to do with microcirculation or vascular research or other scientific activities. It’s a BEMER International front-end, led by outsider physicians, fake doctors, homeopaths and crackpots (more on this on request, probably it’s self-evident to readers).
The obituary has a fine detail. It tells about Klopp’s “only recently completed Institute for Microcirculation“.
That’s clear and no misunderstanding. They, if anyone, know the truth. And that I was correct with my findings about the phantom institute. Hostile comments do not change the facts.
ps. Dr. Klopp is gone, but his genius lives on!
– Now in BEMERwater. I can assure everyone, it is as effective as BEMER therapy.
This is a follow-up to my classic post about the fake “Institute for Microcirculation” in Berlin, which still has about 100 visitors/day (the post, not the “institute”).
As expected, the Institute now got own premises at the place spotted a year ago. BEMER International obviously used a small sum to make up a physical incarnation of the phantom institute. Here is what it looked like in December 2017:
And by the end of October 2018, the “institute” was opened to some visitors (screenshot from the imin-org.eu website).
The “extraordinarily modern and competent equipment … impressive, enabling completely new possibilities” was not yet unveiled. Some machines and staff are still needed to populate the place. There has not been any “research” published for 5 years.
The institute’s website is down already for a while, probably it will resurface in 2019.*
*update: it has resurfaced 15.1.2019. Don’t hesitate to have a look at the intro video… poor but telling. No new equipment. The other person is Dr.W.Niemer, Klopp’s long-time companion & old-age pensioner.
If not self-evident, read my comments below. Markers added. There’s also some historic background related to East Germany which may be totally unknown to american readers, at least.
According to this bio I found online–Dr Klopp is currently 75 years old, which may be why he is difficult to track currently. I don’t believe there was ever a BEMER institute of Microcirculation-it is not recorded in the history of BEMER international AG, Liechtenstein-but rather Dr Klopp pioneered research in microcirulation and BEMER contacted them for evaluation of their product(s). Dr Klopp was a physician and professor at Humbolt University in Berlin (Charite) holding director and teaching positions of both undergraduates in physics and biophysics, and as a senior physician of the Institute of Cardiovascular Diagnostics and researcher in the medical school. He founded a research institute of microcirculation while at Charite in 1991 and was awarded research monies from the German government as well as other sources.
Dr. Klopp is well published in Europe.
Average of retirement in Germany is 62 to 65 years old. In 1991, the year his separate institute for microcirculation studies was formed on the campus of Charite, Dr Klopp was 48 yeas old–he is now 75 years old. Dr Klopp worked with the founder of BEMER Intl AG Peter Gleim to study and understand the original BEMER wave signal and provided validation of their product’s impact on the capillary and micro capillary system in the human body . BEMER did not own his Institute of Microcirculation which he founded at Charite University medical center. In the review of published research on pubmed.gov where he is listed as an author over the past 11 years there is no mention of the research being conducted at the Institute of Microcirculation–indicating that it is probably not an active research facility, hence you would not find it on the campus. This is not really a validating factor that it did not exist, and even here in the USA physicians, professors and clinical researchers are often referred to by the last position they held before retirement. They are often consultants that can still be involved in ongoing research.
While I appreciate your investigation of the campus attempting to locate the Institute of Microcirculation, a further investigation of an actual interview with Dr Klopp himself, review of current research on BEMER wave signal–such as the USA Dept of Defense research on wound healing presented at the IMIN conference in Florida in Sept 2016, research of the history of the formation of the institution of its original charter, financial contracts, employees, etc which are records of the state university – Humbolt University(Charite) and the government records of Germany would be much more informative of the actual work of Dr Klopp and his founding of the Institute of Microcirculation–rather than chasing addresses and drawing conclusions from that.
In the USA many foundations, non-profits etc are formed specifically to financially support the research of work of physicians, clinical researchers etc These entities have university addresses that are fluid and are often decided upon committees of the university and have no real bearing on exactly where research is conducted. As a quick perusal I just did an internet research for a well respected deceased physician researcher–former Assoc Dean of Medicine for Stanford Univ School of Medicine and Head of multiple departments at Stanford, who was recruited to Harvard University with a significantly higher research dollar budget–neither of his research centers laboratories are even named in his bio–yet they took in 100’s of millions of dollars in funding. There is no current record of their addresses that you would find if you tried to locate them in the manner of which you did your research on an institute of microcirculation associated with Dr Klopp, and a never in existence “BEMER” institute of microcirculation.
I would also recommend a search of who owns the English website of Institute of Microcirculation should be investigated(where you obtained a current address from)–the style of English content does not appear to be written by Dr Klopp himself as it does not match his other writings I have read–English translations originally written in German.
I am a skeptic, open skeptic, with a history of university and hospital administration, USA Natl Institute of Health clinical studies site coordinator, and have supported clinical research at Univ of Calif San Francisco and Stanford Univ. I also have experience as a research analyst for high tech and biotech startups and expansions being evaluated for venture capital and other sources of funding. I recently traveled to Liechtenstein to BEMER Intl AG headquarters and met much of their staff as well as members of the founding Gleim family. I also before going to visit their headquarters, I read ( having had translated for me by a native German speaker and research scientist) 10 peer reviewed studies on the BEMER wave signal, as well as video conference attended the most recent IMIN conference 2016 in Florida, and have read some of the transcripts on current research and case histories presented by physicians at a conference of approximately 400 medical doctors at a medical research conference on BEMER wave signal in Europe fall 2017.
After thorough research, and personal testing of the BEMER Pro device, I decided to become a BEMER independent distributor. I do not speak on behalf of the company, but from my own personal point of view.
I never looked for a non-existing “BEMER institute”. My text stated clearly that I searched for the “Institute for Microcirculation”, which BEMER Group links with high visibility directly from its homepage (falsely listed as “University”/removed 7/2019):
“BEMER” is the name of the method. It’s the same as calling an institute known for yoga yoga institute or an institute that developed SEMTEX the Semtex institute. Note the quotation marks. This is an classic example of a straw man fallacy: Constructing a fault which isn’t there to “disprove” it.
I found it always fascinating, how proponents of “Alternative medicine” are refusing to acknowledge obvious facts, and rather create or maintain conspiracy theories. An impressive example can be seen above: The flimsy website of the fake institute is too shameful for the glorious BEMER group propaganda, so it must be owned by some sinister force.
The WHOIS service is now heavily redacted – thanks to GDPR-, but the rest of the entry for Klopp’s “institute” still shows his name.
Searching for the “institute” on Google meanwhile brings up Klopp’s apartment as its location – just as I found out on the spot.
The rest of the comment contains mainly irrelevant listing of great but unrelated things, names, money, institutions and titles, meant to distract from the bizarre reality.
The whole comment is of a quality that demands a reframing. The following may not be easy to understand for westeners or the younger generation. However, things were as they were.
In the 1990s, I studied medicine at the Charité/Humboldt University in Berlin. I’m from East Germany, just like Dr. Klopp. We lived in the so-called German Democratic Republic (GDR) for longer than we did in unified Germany (in my case, because I’m in self-imposed exile since the 2000s). In 1992/93 I worked less than 200 metres away from were the “Institute for Microcirculation” claims to have been. My father is from the very same area in the North-East of Berlin, and I know places, people and conditions since my childhood. Hence my motivation to check this out – I found it interesting and knew it’s feasible.
In the GDR, high positions in university departments were not for the outstanding scientists. Professors’ posts were for the politically extremely reliable, hardened communist party members. Even a staff physicist as Angela Merkel had to deliver in marxist-leninist theory to gain a postdoc position. Often department leaders had close ties to the Ministry for State Security (>>Stasi) and typically were party members.
When it all fell apart in 1989-1991, as the communist regimes collapsed, professors and deans found themselves on catapult seats. Plenty got fired for “Staatsnähe” or Stasi contacts. The most prominent case in Berlin was the rector of the Humboldt University, Heinrich Fink, for being a long-time Stasi agent. Leading MDs had boosted their career with misconduct, even with criminal activities. (Suggested reading: >>”Es geht um unsere Ehre”, Der Spiegel 35/1991.)
The Institute for Cardiovascular Diagnostics at the Charité, where Klopp claims to have had a senior position (Oberarzt) as well at the then-Institute for Microcirculation were interlinked with the Zentralinstitut fuer Herz-Kreislauf-Forschung (ZIHK) in Berlin-Buch. The latter was known for strong party- and Stasi-connections. The ZIHK was famous, amongst other things, for employing the son of Stasi minister Erich Mielke, Major Frank Mielke, as a “scientist”. Klopp’s “Publications” page has numerous ZIHK monographs, indicating intense cooperation. The ZIHK was located, as it happens, at the Campus Berlin-Buch, Robert-Rössle-Str.10 – just the adress were Klopp’s “institute” now evaporated.
In 1991/1992 those leading doctors who were fired – or expected to be fired soon – often founded own companies or “institutes”. This is the background of the “Institute for Microcirculation”, which had no future at the Humboldt university. Nothing could differ more from the US picture with Stanford, millions of dollars, and scientific merits.
The scientific community in Germany, as well as now in Finland, merely has a humoristic approach to Klopp’s “research”, if any. BEMER International attempts to change this by spending big money for congresses and marketing stunts. It’s natural that some fall for it.
A well-conducted placebo-controlled trial in Finland has demonstrated, that the controversial BEMER therapy is useless in Fibromyalgia, finnish media has just reported.[>>1] The trial results have just been published in the respected Bioelectromagneticsjournal ahead of print.[>>2]
In the study, 108 patients with fibromyalgia diagnosis according to American College of Rheumatology’s (ACR) criteria were randomized to active (N=57) and sham treatment (N=51). They used the BEMER devices as advised in manufacturer instructions for 12 weeks. Then the groups crossed over, meaning that every participant had active and sham treatment at some time.
There was exactly no difference between sham and real BEMER treatment at the end of these periods. The study was adequately powered to find even small differences between sham and active application. Thus, it strongly refutes earlier results from the much smaller trials, which seemed to hint at an effect.
Furthermore, the authors comprehensively explain why there is no effect: The magnetic field is far too weak to affect human physiology or microcirculation. Therefore, it’s unlikely that this kind of “therapy” will have anything else than a placebo effect also in other uses.
Because it is an important study, and it was financed by public funds from finnish tax payers like me, I make the full text article available here. Objections be directed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
________________________ original post, January 2018__________________
The institute is not in the phone book or any other address- or business directory. It’s not in the trade register, i.e. it is not a registered company. It’s not a registered trademark. The only hint we have is the institute’s website, which it maintains since 2014, first under institut-mikrozirkulation.de (defunct) and later as institute-microcirculation.com. The physical address mentioned there is the same as in their last regular paper, which dates back to 2013.
Note that the name has a spelling error (Reiner). The address is also false, there is no Erwin-Negelein-Haus in Bernau. However, there is an Erwin-Negelein-Haus at the Forschungscampus Berlin-Buch, Robert-Rössle-Str. 10. The website tells us the institute’s research lab is situated at this address, and so I started there. Armed with a BEMER business card I grabbed somewhere, I would pose as a churnalist, an idiot-level healthcare professional, or an interested reseller – just in case there’d be a real facility with real people.
The campus gatekeeper had never heard of such an institute, although he’s doing the job for several years now. Nobody had asked him so far for such an entity. The map and site directory list neither an Institut für Mikrozirkulation nor its director, Dr. Rainer Klopp, BEMER’s key expert.
The Negelein Haus is building no. D79. There is no such institute. The guiding plate at the entrance let shimmer through the names of all former labs and offices at the spot, and there has been no mark for an Institut für Mikrozirkulation on earlier versions.
I inspected the building as far as possible. The labs and other premises are rather small, there is a number of companies which have post boxes in the hall. One of them is ICP Healthcare.[defunct as of 1/2019]
The co-author of the last paper mentioned above, Prof. Schulz, was affiliated with that company. Did he lend his address to Klopp’s institute?
The search would have ended here, but the gatekeeper found me a contact at BBB Management GmbH, which operates the whole campus. There was a nice and helpful guy, with whom I had this conversation, word-for-word:
I’m looking for an Institut fuer Mikrozirkulation, which claims to have research labs here. Have you ever heard of such an institution?
– Yes, that’s Dr. Klopp. It’s not here.
Can you tell me where the institute is?
– The address is [—]. You will find Dr. Klopp there.
The institute “is” Dr. Klopp? Not that I expected anything else, but that was remarkably direct.
The site in question is at Wiltbergstr. 50, a kilometre from the other. It’s a 19th century hospital ensemble. At the entrance I found that map, which finally was the first hint that an Institute for Microcirculation really exists, physically. On the lower right, from the bottom, the second entry.
The building was a 1,5 story pavillon, and at the back door 20d, between trash containers, there’s the sign I was searching for.
There is nothing but that plate (the name here correct: Rainer). No doorbell, the lock destroyed. Inside a rubble. From the german writings on the wall, it’s a former surgery from East German time, not any institute. There’s hardly any research work ongoing, since even the electricity cables are torn from the walls.
The same in the basement. All windows taped, appearingly the site is completely empty. No institute here. Possibly here are premises under construction, but there’s no Institute for Microcirculation or any related research facilities at the given addresses.
In late 2017, however, a new address appeared on the “institute’s” website: the management would be at Marktplatz 3, Bernau bei Berlin. Bernau is a small town about 15km away, just beyond Berlin’s city limits. Marktplatz is the central town square. It is quite small in this case, with only a handful of buildings. No. 3 looks this way.