The two companies settled the complaints, without admitting any violation of the law, by paying fines of $14,294 in AcneApp’s case, and $1,700 in Acne Pwner’s case.
Gregory Pearson, the Houston dermatologist who helped create AcneApp “was not making any claims of efficacy,” said his attorney, Sesha Kalapatapu.
Cell phone lights are being marketed to treat other conditions, too, including seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that occurs during the winter because of lack of sunlight. But SAD experts say even the most powerful cell phone lights are far too weak to treat depression.
Cellphone sound cure
There’s also little proof that apps relying on cell phone sounds can be effective, yet there are many such apps.
AG Method, which sells for $9.99 on the iTunes store, says that users can get relief for everything from insomnia to toothaches by listening to something that sounds like running water for 20 minutes. “Put the sound-source on the maximum pain,” it says. All the while, “HEALING IN PROGRESS” flashes in big red letters on the iPhone screen.
“There is no plausible, physiological way in which something like this would help,” said Misra, the doctor from iMedicalApps.
But that may not stop people from buying it.
“People in pain are very gullible. They would pay their last dollar for relief,” said Penney Cowan, executive director of the American Chronic Pain Association.
Tiziana Formica, a spokesman for AG Method, said in an email: “AG Method is the result of 25 years of research and includes several technologies and methodologies developed and widely tested.”
Even health apps that seem more conventional often have fundamental flaws. Many don’t conform with clinical practice guidelines.
An app to help people that have ringing in the ears, or tinnitus, was sold in both the iTunes and Google Play stores until early August and contained multiple medical misconceptions.