Thursday, September 11, 2008

Cancer pill peddler convicted

Andrew Harris from Sale has been convicted of selling fake cancer pills. This is definitely Good News. The sentence is fairly soft (two year conditional discharge) but I think that's probably to be expected given a first offence and the limited damage he's actually done. I for one will be watching his website to see if he starts selling again. ( Further coverage is given by the quackometer, who have been following this case from the start.
I doubt there are many people reading this who haven't had some contact with cancer, and although science has made lots of progress in treating and even curing cancer (e.g. Lance Armstrong) it can still be a devastating disease. Andrew Harris was buying herbal pills which normally sell at £20 a bottle, promoting them as a cure for cancer without the slightest bit of evidence, and selling them for £250 a bottle. This is blatant preying on the vulnerable, and is the reason the Cancer Act exists.
The Cancer Act 1939 was enacted to prevent quacks exploiting sick people's natural fears. Unfortunately cancer attracts woos and quacks like flies. From bizarre claims - such as "The key is Prevention. It only cost $1. a day worth of minerals to prevent all forms of cancer. What is needed is a form of insurance that would educate people to use minerals and so give people who take vitamins a lower premium for staying healthy. " (from - serious woo alert!) to blatant criminal fraudsters such as Andrew Harris trying to make a quick buck from other people's misery, cancer attracts them all. The Cancer Act does not have particularly sharp teeth with the maximum sentence being 3 months in prison for a second offence. I don't think this is too soft myself - he's not causing that much damage however despicable his actions - but I would like to see his assets being examined and any profits he's made from triamazon confiscated. I don't know if that's possible, but I'd welcome it. Remove the profits and the fraudsters will not find it worth their while.
For more examples of dietary supplements sold as cancer cures see jdc's blog.