EPI: Evolution of a New Medical Paradigm

There is a simplified version of the origin of species that says all life basically started in an electrically-charged chemical soup. Although the semantics are open to debate, the basic premise has passed theoretical muster into the realm of fact. However, most medical practitioners have only dealt with human physiology from a chemical model, all but ignoring the underlying physics involved. Yet a few enlightened visionaries have been willing to buck the accepted system and champion the human body's unique relationship with bioelectricity.

Taking his cue from ancient eastern models of medicine, neurobiologist Dr. Daniel L. Kirsch has been just such a visionary, blazing a trail toward a newer, safer model of medicine. It is a model that sees the body for what it is -- a complex series of electrical impulses charged with the responsibility of controlling physiological functions. Like natural selection, the evolution of Electromedical Products International, Inc. (EPI), did not happen overnight. Dr. Kirsch, EPI's founder, realized long ago that the body is made up of 75 trillion cells, each possessing an electrical potential and functioning like a miniature power plant. Within each body function, these cells actually communicate, rushing to keep physical needs maintained, or to repair a damaged area. Herein lies the seeds of Alpha-Stim microcurrent technology.

There is no way to examine the history of EPI without discussing the background of Dr. Kirsch (see biography ). Dr. Kirsch's odyssey began in the early 1970s, when he became fascinated with the therapeutic principles of acupuncture, learning its ancient protocols and mastering its wisdom. As he continued to study the discipline, which is at least 5,000 years old, Dr. Kirsch came to question the chemical-only model of medicine applied by western cultures.

“I started out with an interest in Oriental philosophy,” Dr. Kirsch said. “That is how I became interested in acupuncture. I worked with Edmund Chein, MD. He was teaching neuroendocrine mechanisms of acupuncture while I was teaching traditional acupuncture. After a while, I lost interest in the traditional theories of acupuncture because -- as fascinating as they were from a philosophical view -- denying our contemporary understanding of physiology clearly didn't make sense. As I progressed with my education, I realized that physics controls the chemical reactions in the body.”

“Western medicine, which is based on the chemical/mechanical paradigm, primarily tries to name a disease, and if it is progressive, cut it out if possible, or inhibit or supplement the activity,” Dr. Kirsch continued. “For example, if you have diabetes, you take insulin. If you have cancer, you cut it out. If you have an allergy, you take an antihistamine to stop the sneezing -- but you still have an allergy. It doesn't cure the problem. My approach, which is medicine based on physics, is that  all the functions of the body can be normalized, as long as the pathology hasn't progressed too far. Physics controls chemistry.”

Curious, Dr. Kirsch carefully focused on how acupuncture triggered the body's healing mechanisms. This search led him to examine electroacupuncture, a process originated in the 1950s which uses needles charged with a small current during acupuncture treatment. Dr. Kirsch realized that manipulating the body's electricity was the key element in acupuncture. With this as his foundation, Dr. Kirsch developed a needleless electrical protocol. This quest for knowledge lead him to coin the term “electro-acutherapy.” He went on to publish three books on related subjects, including The Complete Clinical Guide to Electro-Acutherapy in 1978.

“Acupuncture, like a lot of traditional medicine, deals with energy systems in the body, which are really electrical in nature,” Dr. Kirsch continued. “So bioelectricity, physics, or other terms that we use based on more contemporary scientific theories, are the same concepts that have been stated in a more poetic sense in eastern models of medicine like acupuncture. I looked at the different systems of both traditional and contemporary theories of bioelectric medicine and noticed that there is a commonality among them. That paved the way for a technology with a general application in bioelectricity.”

A metamorphosis occurred as the foundations of Alpha-Stim microcurrent technology were laid in Dr. Kirsch's very fertile mind. His understanding jumped by light-years. For example, during the middle 1970s, Dr. Kirsch was conducting seminars on early auriculotherapy devices. By the end of the decade, he completely scrapped acupuncture and began developing a new microcurrent electrical technology to treat chronic pain and stress. It was groundbreaking research using minute currents of electricity as the primary denominator in the pain relief equation. As Dr. Kirsch continued his research, designing prototypes and experimenting with electrical waveforms, he came to realize that a slight spike in electrical current could be used to pierce skin resistance, working essentially as well, or better than, a needle.

“I had grown beyond acupuncture, in that I discovered how to make small electrical currents work away from acupuncture points,” Dr. Kirsch recalled. “Acupuncture points are the areas of the lowest resistance on the skin. You can penetrate the skin resistance anywhere with an electrical device if the current is  strong enough, but at this extremely low level of electricity, learning how to penetrate the skin took some doing, but we were able to figure it out.”

He was on to something. He began looking at combining waveforms to activate the body's natural electrical impulses, which could, if manipulated properly, control chronic pain and anxiety. As with most great ideas, the research took on a life of its own. But the long hours of work would eventually pay off. In 1981, after years of intense research and study, Dr. Kirsch unveiled a perfected waveform featured in the Alpha-Stim 2000, a large clinical device for medical practitioners. Thus, EPI was born.

“It is the waveform that is important,” Dr. Kirsch noted. “It sets Alpha-Stim microcurrent technology apart. It is based on a theory of cellular resonance or biological harmonics, whatever you want to call it. It is based on the concept that physics can restore normal biological functions, reinstating homeostasis.”

From the start, Alpha-Stim microcurrent technology was a hit. The Alpha-Stim 2000 captured the imagination of the press, garnering a host of print articles and television attention. The reason for the newfound fame was simple. This product just works. In EPI's first year of business, the company racked up more than one million dollars in sales.

However, the work didn't stop there. In 1982, Dr. Kirsch introduced the Alpha-Stim 350, the first home care microstimulator on the market. It was a move that was years ahead of its time, a foreshadowing of the coming home care revolution. More changes came as Dr. Kirsch updated the Alpha-Stim 2000 in 1983 to the “Goldline” model.

“We actually used gold electrodes, which maintain the output more precisely,” Dr. Kirsch observed. “Today we can do that with better technology, but in those days it made a difference because gold is one of the best conductors of electricity known. We also upgraded the circuitry as technology improved.”

In 1989, using advancements in computerization and miniaturization, EPI introduced the Alpha-Stim CS, which was slightly smaller than a Walkman cassette tape player. The Alpha-Stim CS was the first truly portable home unit and, thanks to miniaturization, could be offered to the public at a substantially-reduced price over earlier models.

“The CS was our first surface-mount technology unit, which allowed us to use very, very small parts which are actually more accurate,” Dr. Kirsch added. “And we put more money into research and development as we went along. It cost us a lot more to develop the Alpha-Stim 100 than the Alpha-Stim 2000. The Alpha-Stim 2000 took more than 60 hours of labor to build. This isn't anything unique to Alpha-Stim, but more the rule in electronics. The more design money you put into a product, the less it usually costs to build. Both the Alpha-Stim 2000 and the Alpha-Stim 350 were primarily handmade devices. The newer generations of Alpha-Stim technology are primarily machine-made products.”

In 1992, EPI introduced the Alpha-Stim 100. Slightly larger than the CS, the Alpha-Stim 100 was the perfect amalgamation of a clinical device and home care unit. It is the most popular Alpha-Stim yet introduced in the market. The Alpha-Stim 100 comes complete with two probes for localized pain protocols, adhesive electrodes for extended treatments, and clip electrodes that attach to the ear lobes for cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES). The unit incorporates a timed LCD display and an audible signal for probe settings, which can prove very helpful in a clinical setting or even with patient use.

The Alpha-Stim 100 remains the focus of EPI's business, however the company is excited about the recent launch of its newest product. The Alpha-Stim SCS is a new, smaller version of Alpha-Stim technology that is sold worldwide for the relief of anxiety, depression, and/or insomnia. The Alpha-Stim SCS is a CES-only device that sells over-the-counter outside of the US, at a substantially reduced price from the more versatile Alpha-Stim 100. In the US it is available with a doctor's prescription.

“We can sell Alpha-Stim technology over the counter in every nation but the USA,” Dr. Kirsch lamented. “We have introduced the Alpha-Stim SCS initially in Europe, Canada, and Australia, and we are beginning to market it in Asia and most of the rest of the world. The product is safer than aspirin, so there is no reason Alpha-Stim technology shouldn't be sold over-the-counter. Unfortunately, the regulatory process in the United States is so expensive and difficult that I don't see that happening here in the near future. We did invest some time and money for lawyers to approach the FDA about making it available here without a prescription, but we weren’t getting anywhere so we dropped it for now.”

Despite the regulatory inconveniences at home, Dr. Kirsch is excited about the European expansion.

“Currently, we have a minor presence overseas, our primary market is still in the United States,” he said. “But the world is getting smaller and we are only restricted by truth in advertising laws in other countries. So take away the prescription and let us tell the truth about the product and I think we will do phenomenally well overseas because the Alpha-Stim SCS works so well. Since it can be purchased over-the-counter outside the USA by people who need it, we should be able to easily compete against mood-altering drugs, such as anti-anxiety and anti-depressive pharmaceuticals, like Prozac.”

EPI has grown steadily over the years. Dr. Kirsch believes he has assembled a talented management team that will take the company well into the 21st Century. He didn't have to go far to find a talented administrator for the day-to-day operations of EPI. Tracey B. Kirsch, his wife (see biography), became President of the company in 1992. Ms. Kirsch is a seasoned administrator who brought plenty of experience and know-how to the table. While Dr. Kirsch may be the heart and soul of the company, Ms. Kirsch is the nuts and bolts. With Ms. Kirsch at the helm, EPI has made significant strides.

“The bottom line has grown,” Ms. Kirsch said. “I think a lot of the growth in the  company has been primarily due to the techology. The Alpha-Stim 100, compared to our previous line of products, is a shining star. It looks good. It doesn't look like anything on the market today. Our previous model, the Alpha-Stim CS, was a little gray box. It looked like every other little gray box out there. The Alpha-Stim 100 makes people stop and take notice. It really stands out at the trade shows we attend. With the ear clips, it is something different. People aren't used to seeing that in a small hand held device. Most importantly, it produces results. It is a better design than our previous models. The microcomputer has made our technology extremely accurate. The Alpha-Stim 100 has a 0.1 percent variance from the design specifications. There isn't anything out there that has such an accurate output. Most are plus or minus 10 percent. The Alpha-Stim CS was plus or minus 10 percent. The hand held probes are new to this model. That makes a big difference. Our clinicians like it. It is portable. The self-adhesive electrodes look different and are different. They are made of silver, which conducts electricity much better than common carbon electrodes.”

Ms. Kirsch says the company's continuing success must also be viewed, on the whole, as a team effort.

“The quality of our products, the quality of our marketing, the quality of our technical support all mean a whole lot to the success of our company,” Ms. Kirsch added. “We provide support. You can talk to our distributors, our doctors, or our patients and they will tell you that they don't get this level of support from other companies. It is because we have a good management team of people who care. We have a good mix of expertise. And we have made some good decisions, like moving from California to Texas. We just need to continue following what has been a good formula for success and we will continue to grow.”

“Furthermore, this is the most ethical company I have ever seen in my life.”  ”That is particularly important to me because I always considered myself a public servant, so the most gratifying part of working with the Alpha-Stim is this product's potential to save thousands of lives each and every year. Consider this, twice the number of people die each year from lethal reactions to prescription drugs than died during the entire Vietnam War. The latest figures put the number of prescription drug-related deaths to be over 100,000 annually in the USA alone. It is essentially like having a 747 loaded to capacity crashing each and every day. Now something is wrong with this picture. I didn't pull these figures out of the air, they are commonly-accepted statistics. Even the Journal of the American Medical Association says 42 percent of all life threatening and serious adverse reactions to any of 100 drugs commonly used in hospitals are preventable. As people learn about Alpha-Stim technology, these numbers could be drastically reduced. Think of what that would mean to malpractice insurance rates. Not only is this technology very safe, especially in contrast to prescription drugs, but in most cases I have seen, it often has both instantaneous and cumulative results. Consider what that would do for a medical practitioner’s patient referrals. Another truth is that if we are serious about breaking the cycle of drug abuse, one of the most positive steps society could take is to end the myth that pills can cure anything and everything. The fact is that many medicines can be lethal in far too many instances and most pills only mask problems and don't actually cure anything.”

One EPI stockholder, David Singer, has watched the company grow through the years, and offered some interesting insights about his personal experiences with the firm.

“In a cover story published in Discover Magazine in 1986, the theories of Björn Nordenström, MD (author of Biologically Closed Electrical Circuits and Exploring BCECs), were discussed,” Singer recalled. “It was about the body electric, or what are called bioelectrically closed electrical circuits. Basically, the article discussed how we are beings controlled by physics and not chemistry. I had always been rather disgruntled  with traditional medicine, so I carried this article around with me for about six months. I was fascinated with the concept of electromedicine.”

Lo and behold, Mr. Singer's brother was a neighbor of Dr. Kirsch's in Malibu, California, and the two men met, discovering they shared similar philosophies. Then Dr. Kirsch introduced Mr. Singer to Alpha-Stim microcurrent technology.

“I was just amazed that there was a technology out there like this,” Mr. Singer continued. “I invested all of my money into EPI. Over the years I have been very impressed. The company has continually grown through the years, but there is still much to accomplish. I attribute much of the success to Dan Kirsch's perseverance. In fact, I think if you look in the dictionary under perseverance, you might find Dan listed there. This company has a very, very effective product that helps a lot of people. There is nothing else like it on the market.”

There are many plans still on the drawing board for the future of Alpha-Stim technology, including a new clinical device. Meanwhile, Dr. Kirsch has co-authored a new book, The Science Behind CES, which includes a comprehensive review of the research on this important therapy. For now, EPI is looking at a bright horizon.

EPI is more than just a durable medical equipment corporation, it is a philosophy.

There is a typical pattern for any new great idea. First it is feared, then it is ridiculed and finally it is accepted.  Alpha-Stim microcurrent technology has followed such a path. Someday, there will be general acceptance for a working relationship between the body electric and its chemistry. While Alpha-Stim has treated some 8 million people since its introduction, more than 90 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. One can only guess what the global numbers are. Although thousands of doctors use Alpha-Stim microcurrent technology, millions of others have never even heard of it, so convincing the general public that the right type and amount of electricity can stop chronic pain and help reduce anxiety and depression is easier said than done. After decades of socialization which includes high-priced advertising campaigns to convince the populace that all problems can be cured by a pill, it is hard for most people to understand that electromedicine is much safer and far more efficacious in many instances. But once tried, Alpha-Stim technology usually wins quick converts. Often, Alpha-Stim users will find out about the technology by word of mouth. In fact, patients often express frustration that their physician wasn't familiar with the technology.

“I think medical systems as we know them have failed,” Dr. Kirsch asserted. “They have not cured cancer. They have not made any progress in the treatment of viruses. Now we have fatal viruses. Previously, some people died from influenza, but most of us lived through viruses. But I think viruses like HIV and AIDS, are creating the need to look outside the current medical paradigm. We have been stuck on a 'magic bullet' theory of medicine. Finding a specific drug for a specific disease has been the model, yet it doesn't work from a practical point of view. Staying with this model just because the economics are so strongly entrenched has no scientific rhyme or reason. What we need to do is to allow for medical freedom. Right now, we have government, medical societies and state licensing boards that severely restrict what practitioners can do. In spite of that, there is a tremendous growth in alternative and complimentary medicines where practitioners are risking their licenses because they are sick and tired of prescribing the often harmful and in some cases, lethal substances to treat diseases. So our technology resonates strongly with the Hippocratic Oath, which tells us first to 'do no harm.' But I think we are coming to realize that diseases aren't as specific as we once thought and that much of a person's body functions are working in concert with each other, even in illness. I think this will lead to a completely different view of physiology and a kinder, more gentle medicine. After all, our knowledge of physics has grown so much over the past century that our entire view of the universe has changed, yet the medical practice procedures have not been specifically affected, except in diagnosis.”

We know the world is round, however, there is still a Flat Earth Society within some narrow views of medicine. It has been said that if we understand a disease, we cure it. If we only somewhat understand an ailment, we treat it. If we don't understand it at all, we cut it out. EPI, guided by its founder, seeks a different path. At the moment, it is a path only traveled by a few who are willing to step back and take an objective view of science. But in time, EPI realizes that everyone will eventually travel the same road.

“There will come a day when we understand the body's electrical physiology more fully,” Dr. Kirsch promised. “Until then, this company has developed a safer and more effective technology that treats a broad range of medical problems. It is a technology that offers a more complete view of medical paradigms and deals with the body from a holistic view. I have no doubt that this is the future of medicine.”

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