FDA Attacks Claims for Reflexology Device (1976)


Stephen Barrett, M.D.
June 30, 2020

In the mid-1970s, I received a brochure for the Rowe Reflex-O-Sage Hand & Foot Roller, which was developed and marketed by Lowell V. Rowe (1920-1997), a chiropractor who practiced in  Hot Springs, Arkansas. The brochure claimed that rolling the device on the hand or foot would relieve many ailments:

Reflexology, upon which the device was based, is a pseudoscience whose proponents claim that each body part is “represented” on the hands and feet and that pressing on specific areas on the hands or feet can have therapeutic effects in other parts of the body.

The brochure was accompanied by an article in which Rowe outlined a plan to donate money to chiropractic colleges. The device retailed for $11.95. If 5,000 or 6,000 chiropractors averaged 5 sales per month, he would donate $3 per sale which total about  a million dollars annually. The article also contained this disclaimer:

I am not suggesting that doctors or the colleges endorse this product. As the brochure points out, Rowe Reflex-O-Sage was designed for massage therapy or sub-clinical conditions. We make no clinical claims that would take away from your professional image. Nor is it contrary to F. D. A. regulations. Rowe Reflex-O- Sage is responsible for all contents of the Brochure.

It turned out, however, that the FDA saw things differently. On May 20, 1976, Rowe’s company issued this notice:

URGENT: DEVICE LABELING RECALL

The U. S. Food & Drug Administration has alleged that the labeling and literature accompanying the Rowe Reflex-O-Sage Device is false and misleading as to health claims, and fails to bear adequate directions for the use of the device. Consequently, pursuant to the request of the FDA, we are recalling all Reflex-O-Sage literature and labeling.

Please fill out the enclosed card if you are a purchaser or distributor of the Reflex-O-Sage device, and return it by· means of the enclosed return envelope. If you have in your possession any Reflex-O-Sage labeling or literature, please return it immediately by means of the enclosed envelope so that it might be destroyed.

This recall is being made with the knowledge of the U. S. Food & Drug Administration and the Arkansas Department of Health. We appreciate your assistance.

Melinda Bacon
Director of Sales

 

I received no further mail about this device and can find no information about it by searching with Google. So it looks like its marketing was short-lived.