Three jailed in Germany for selling a fraudulent cancer cure to terminally ill patientsBMJ 2008; 337 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.a875 (Published 18 July 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a875
A court in the central German town Kassel has sentenced three men to jail for fraud because in 2000-1 they sold and administered a food supplement, which they claimed was a cure for cancer, to more than 150 terminally ill cancer patients. All the patients subsequently died. The verdict was given this week after a 16 month trial.
A doctor, a businessman, and a journalist had persuaded dying people that a Russian food supplement, Galavit, was able to stop their cancer. Patients had to pay about €8500 (£6800; $13 500) for the treatment course, which was administered in a rented ward of a rehabilitation hospital near Kassel in Bad Karlshafen.
The 64 year old businessman Falko Dahms who organised the operation was sentenced to seven years, the medical doctor Eike Rauchfuss who administered the treatment was given five years eight months, and the journalist who published the false news of the “wonder drug” was sentenced to three years.
Two other businessmen members of the group were given suspended jail terms and heavy fines. The defence lawyers claimed that there was no proof of the ineffectiveness of Galavit and had demanded an acquittal. After the sentence they announced that they would appeal.
At the end of a 16 month trial the court concluded that it was sure that Galavit did not cure cancer, even if the drug’s lack of efficacy could be scientifically proved only by clinical trials. As such trials might cost several hundred million euros, it would be impossible to say for certain. The accused men must have known that Galavit would not work, the judge said, and had a duty to tell the patients, but they had encouraged false hopes among the dying, which was “especially odious.”
Excitement over Galavit began in the West in 2000, when the convicted Falko Dahms set up a “health institute,” marketing Galavit as a secret discovery by Russian space scientists. It had allegedly been used to treat successfully 300 cosmonauts and thousands of Russian cancer patients.
Stories were spread in the popular press and television shows. The German television actor Ivan Desny, of part Russian origin, appeared on the screen and claimed that his prostate cancer was cured by Galavit. Later on it turned out that he had never had cancer and he died in 2002 from pneumonia.
In April 2001 the German Cancer Society and other medical organisations had warned patients not to use Galavit because there were no laboratory or clinical studies to show that the substance might have any effect, or that its administration was harmless. Galavit was accredited by the Russian Health Ministry in 1997 without any scientific data, the Cancer Society said.
The drug dose given to the German cancer patients for thousands of euros could be bought in Russia for a few hundred euros.
Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a875