Thousands of Utahns are carrying a potentially valuable medical card - for which they paid $20 - that local law officers maintain is virtually worthless.

It's a Med-Alert card, a plastic identification card the size of a driver's license that reveals such emergency medical information as blood type and pressure, allergies and medications taken."The idea around the card is when a person is sick, injured or dying, emergency medical and hospital personnel would have medical history readily available to them," said John Blundell, West Valley fire marshal.

"We are not knocking it; we think it's a potentially viable program."

But Blundell said the card is worthless in its present form - at least in Utah.

The Med-Alert card is not the same as Medic Alert, best known for the bracelet that lists a few medical details and provides a toll-free number for more information..

The individual's medical history on the Med-Alert card is printed on a piece of microfiche. Because the information is greatly reduced in size, it's impossible to read unless placed under a microfiche reader, which is a very small, unusual magnifying glass sold by that company.

The basic problem, Blundell said, is that local medical emergency agencies don't have readers.

"One hospital said we might be able to find a low-power microscope, but that's the best thing we can do," Blundell said. "Yet people are making millions of dollars on this card."

One person has been arrested in connection with selling the cards.

Edward Brandenburg pleaded no contest to charges of soliciting without a business license and impersonating a public servant. He appeared Friday in the West Valley Circuit Court before Judge Tyrone E. Medley to answer to the charges, both class B misdemeanors. He will be sentenced Nov. 13.

Blundell Friday called a press conference to warn Utahns against buying Med-Alert cards - not because their sale is illegal, but because no one can read the information outlined on the cards.

"It's a good program, but until someone provides all the medical services microfiche readers, these cards are worthless."

Other such cards also being sold in Utah cost less but may be worth much more.

The Medi-Card ID, another wallet-size card that contains important medical information on microfilm, can be read without magnification by simply holding it up to the light.

Conditions such as hypertension, drug allergies, diabetes, as well as who to call in case of an emergency are listed.

It sells for $9. A business license is required to sell it.

According to Medi-Card ID promotion literature, some aggressive sellers have made net incomes of $80,000 a month.

The sale of that card is available by buying into a marketing plan developed by Dr. William J. Savran out of Jamaica Estates, N.Y.

According to Blundell, Med-Alert Inc. is marketed out of Marinette, Wis.

"It's been sold in the area for the past couple of years. Many people are selling it, but we don't know how many or who."