A company made more than $300,000 from cancer sufferers, telling them its chlorine water - famously used by ex-All Black Colin Meads and celebrity TV builder John 'Cocksy' Cocks - would kill cancer cells. Now a doctor has been struck off. Melissa Nightingale investigates.
A doctor has been struck off over a controversial "cure" used by rugby legend Sir Colin Meads and TV builder John "Cocksy" Cocks in their battles with cancer.
Dr Mitchell Dean Feller was also censured and fined by the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal yesterday.
PureCure — a company 50 per cent owned by Feller — made more than $300,000 from cancer sufferers, telling them the chlorine water, famously used by the late Meads, would kill cancer cells.
But at a tribunal hearing which finished yesterday, an expert said the active ingredients of Te Kiri Gold water would react with the cells in the mouth and throat, immediately making it impossible for the chemicals to even reach a tumour.
The water contains high amounts of salt and chlorine and does not meet the Government's safe drinking water guidelines.
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Patients, some terminally ill, were charged $1600 for an eight-week trial of the water, which creator Vern Coxhead earlier said changed the molecular structure of the immune system so the water could penetrate to the bone, then to the cancer cells.
Coxhead, a 50 per cent shareholder in PureCure, did not wish to comment yesterday when contacted by the Herald.
Meads and Cocks both used the drink as a treatment and originally claimed it had a positive effect on their health. Meads, however, backtracked after initially speaking of its healing properties.
Both Meads and Cocks have since died of their illnesses.
Feller, who carried out unapproved clinical trials on about 500 people for Te Kiri Gold, had his case called before the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal in Wellington this week.
American-born Feller did not appear in person, nor did he have any lawyers appearing on his behalf. The Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) understands he has returned to the United States.
He has not responded to the charges.
Feller developed and conducted the clinical trials over 2016 and 2017 without getting approval from the New Zealand Health and Disability Ethics Committees, the PCC said.
In the time he supplied or helped to supply the water, he used his influence as a doctor to recruit patients, failed to obtain informed consent or disclose his financial interest in the company, and unfairly induced patients to provide their health information before they could receive product, the PCC said.
Medsafe warned PureCure to stop selling the product as a medicine in 2017.
Sales information provided to the PCC showed PureCure received about $327,000 from December 2016 to November 2017 by selling Te Kiri Gold.
Tests from Massey University's school of public health revealed patients taking the maximum recommended dose — 600ml — for the eight-week trial would consume half a kilo of salt, which could be harmful to kidneys, heart and blood pressure.
Despite this, Coxhead said at the time he didn't want to change the recipe.
"I am not a scientist or a doctor and it worries me that if I change something it may no longer work and I need to give it to people who need it now," he said.
"So the salt might be high for a short period of time but dying of cancer isn't too flash either."
During the tribunal hearing, Professor Mark Hampton said the active ingredient in Te Kiri Gold water was the same as that found in household bleaches, such as Janola.
Hampton, director of the Centre for Free Radical Research, said Feller's endorsement and comments around Te Kiri Gold showed "a disturbing lack of understanding of the product".
Hampton explained hypochlorous acid, the active ingredient in the water, would immediately react with the saliva in the mouth and would never reach any cancer cells.
He also pointed to recommendations patients mix the water with milk, saying this would dilute the mixture anyway. "What is left for consumption is an expensive formulation of milk and saltwater."
The PCC argued Feller's registration as a doctor should be cancelled to prevent further exploitation of vulnerable people. It said the cancellation would help delegitimise the trial and dispel beneficial effects Feller had claimed.
The tribunal cancelled Feller's registration, censured him, fined him $5000, and ordered him to pay $56,100 in costs.