Spanish academics charged for selling ‘fake’ cancer drug

Two Spanish university professors and three other suspects have been charged over the alleged sale of a "fake" cancer drug that raked in more than €600,000, police said Tuesday.

Spanish academics charged for selling 'fake' cancer drug
File photo: AFP

In a statement, police said there were “more than a dozen complaints from victims who bought this substance” — a product that had no “curative effects.”   

One of them “paid more than €25,600 ($27,200) to treat his daughter,” they added.

Among those detained last week are two professors at the University of the Balearic Islands (UIB), a police spokesman in Palma de Majorca told AFP, without giving their identities or detailing what they teach or research.  

The three other suspects include two people who worked in the research department of a foundation, he added.  

They have been charged with fraud and released pending further investigation.

The suspects are accused of having promoted their anti-cancer drug in ad campaigns on social networks, “taking advantage of the academic and professional recognition brought about by their posts.”

But the drug was merely a “placebo” with no sales authorisation, police said.

They added the substance was sold to patients or their families via a non-profit foundation that “covered up the sale of the product as a voluntary donation from relatives for research.”  

The academics are also suspected of having tried to sell another “fake drug” against Alzheimer's disease, police said.    

Jaume Carot, vice chancellor of UIB, said the university had received a written complaint about the issue in April last year, and brought the matter to authorities.

He added the university was “extremely concerned by all this”.


Spain’s ‘2,000-tumour man’ sentenced for scamming donors

A Spaniard known as "the man with 2,000 tumours" who lied about having terminal cancer was handed a two-year jail term Monday for scamming donations from thousands, including celebrities.

Spain's '2,000-tumour man' sentenced for scamming donors
De Cedecejj - Trabajo propio, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Paco Sanz, 50, appeared regularly on television and social media between 2010 and 2017, claiming to have nearly 2,000 tumours as a result of Cowden syndrome.

Saying he had only months to live, he appealed for donations via his web page, through text messages and even a charity gala.   

Although he did suffer from the syndrome, all his tumours were benign and posed no threat to his life.

Prosecutors say the former security guard collected just under €265,000 ($319,000) before being arrested in March 2017 in the eastern Valencia region.   

Among those who sent him money were popular television presenter Jorge Javier Vazquez and Spanish footballer Alvaro Negredo.    

Prosecutors accused Sanz of “taking advantage of his illness” to “obtain illegal funding”.

They said he presented the disease as being “much more serious than it really was” and of falsely claiming he could only be saved if he got experimental treatment in the United States.   

In reality, he travelled to the US to take part in a free clinical trial and “all his costs were covered” by the firm running it, prosecutors added.    

In video obtained by Spanish media at the time of his arrest, Sanz could be seen joking with his girlfriend and family members about the lies he was telling.

As his trial opened in Madrid on Monday, Sanz pleaded guilty to fraud, receiving a two-year jail sentence, while his girlfriend was sentenced to a year and nine months for being his accomplice.

But they are not likely to serve time behind bars, as sentences below two years are usually suspended in Spain for first-time offenders convicted of non-violent crimes.

The trial will continue so the court can determine how much money the pair owe in damages.

READ ALSO: Fraudster parents of sick girl jailed for charity scam