A TikTok video, the original of which no longer appears to be available on the platform but which has subsequently been shared on Facebook, claims that a “natural remedy that cures cancer” was produced and sold by a man who was subsequently jailed.
The woman in the video refers to the product, called “TO-MOR-GONE” and says: “If you Google it, you can’t find it, you can’t buy it anymore because it was curing cancer, tumours, skin disorders and infections.”
It is true that in 2017 an American man named Samuel Girod was sentenced to six years in prison after being found guilty on 13 charges, including violations of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, in connection with three products he’d made. One of these was called “TO-MOR-GONE” and claimed to help remove tumours.
However, there is no evidence that the product was actually curing cancer, as the person in the video suggests. In fact, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning about similar products, which contain potentially harmful ingredients and may stop people from seeking proven treatments for their cancer.
Man jailed for selling homemade products
The TikTok video refers to a real case involving an Amish man in Bath County, Kentucky. In 2017, Samuel Girod was sentenced to six years in prison after being found guilty of nine violations of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic act in connection with three products, as well as other offences.
According to an FDA press release, Mr Girod was previously ordered to either comply with FDA regulations on labelling and advertising or stop selling three homemade skin-care products—including TO-MOR-GONE— in 2013, but he had continued to sell them.
According to reporting from the Daily Beast, during his 2017 trial, he argued that he was “not a creation of state/government” and that therefore the charges against him “[did] not apply”.
The video being shared on Facebook claims that Amish people “when they are born, are not part of the state government” and “have nothing to do with the FDA at any time”, and that Mr Girod was only prosecuted because his product cures cancer and “f**** with big pharma”.
While it is true that Amish communities generally exist separately from wider US society, this doesn’t mean he wasn’t required to obey laws about selling products.
According to a petition organised in support of Mr Girod, he was released from prison in 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, though Full Fact has not been able to verify this.
No evidence product cured cancer
The video claims that Mr Girod argued that his products were “herbal remedies” not drugs, so not subject to FDA oversight. The FDA defines drugs as, in part, products “intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease.”
According to an FDA press release: “Mr. Girod advertised the products as curing skin cancer, removing tumors, and helpful for other conditions, including poison ivy, diaper rash, psoriasis, sinus infections, and headaches.”
Court documents state that TO-MOR-GONE was labelled as a “black salve” and described in pamphlets as “very good at removing tumours”. The court documents also say that the product contained an ingredient called “black root” which has a “caustic, corrosive effect on human skin.”
In 2020, the FDA issued a warning about “black salve” products, saying: “Salve products containing corrosive ingredients, including black salve, are dangerous and are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat or cure any skin condition, particularly not skin cancer.”
It continues: “Although not all salves are dangerous, topically applied products with the above ingredients can destroy the skin and result in permanent disfigurement, tissue necrosis (death of cells in living tissue), and can result in infection.
“Furthermore, using salve products such as black salve for serious conditions like skin cancer can result in delayed cancer diagnosis and cancer progression.”
The FDA’s indictment of Mr Girod stated that TO-MOR-GONE was “was dangerous to health when used in the dosage or manner or with the frequency or duration recommended or suggested in the labeling thereof”. However, according to the Daily Beast, no injuries were reported by people who had used Mr Girod’s products.
Image courtesy of US Food and Drug Administration