B.C. man under scrutiny for cancer-cure claims
Saul Pressman sells ozone generators not approved as medical devices
A business owner in Langley, B.C., is under scrutiny by the federal competition bureau after a Calgary customer complained about how he markets unapproved medical devices to cancer patients.
"I've been taken advantage of financially, along with my wife, who was taken advantage of because she lost her hope," said Calgary resident Tim Hill, whose wife, Moira, died last year from colorectal cancer.
Saul Pressman, CEO of Plasmafire International, sold Moira an ozone generator and spa system over the internet. She paid $6,950 for both units. Records show Pressman shipped the generator but not the spa system.
"Toward the end, there was no respect from him for my wife," Hill said, choking back tears. "When you are at your lowest, it is really hard to fight this."
Moira was told that nothing more could be done to fight her cancer. After reading about ozone treatments, Hill said, his wife believed they were her last hope for a cure, because proponents of the alternative treatment claim ozone can kill cancer cells.
The generators administer ozone through a tube that can be inserted in the ear, anus or female genitals. The spa systems deliver it by steam. Pressman told Moira by email that she could use his generator to feed ozone into her body "immediately."
"You inject it into your body," Hill said. "You hope that you are getting as close as you can to the tumour — so it is just going to make it disappear."
Ozone generators are not approved as medical devices for cancer treatment in Canada.
"Health Canada has not been made aware of any ozone generators being marketed for cancer treatment in Canada," wrote Philippe Laroche, media relations officer with Health Canada.
"When Health Canada is made aware of unlicensed medical devices or licensed devices making unapproved claims — such as ozone generating devices making cancer treatment claims — action would be taken."
Pressman, who sells the devices from his Langley home, did not return calls from CBC News requesting an interview.
On websites and in emails, he calls himself "Dr. Saul Pressman," although he is not a medical doctor and does not have a PhD. He writes that he is a "doctor of chiropathy," with a "degree" from the Romano Byzantine College in Norfolk, Va. The college is not accredited in that state and offers courses through distance learning.
During a podcast posted on the internet, Pressman claims ozone, administered through the generator his company manufactures, can eliminate any cancer cell.
"Ozone is going to eliminate any virus that is in the blood," Pressman said. "It is going to eliminate any bacteria any fungus or any cancer cell. So that's huge. That's a huge thing right there."
Hill, whose wife was 57 when she died, doesn't buy it.
"I'd like to see his guarantee — because my wife did pass away."
Pressman makes the claim about killing any cancer cell in a podcast posted May 21, 2009, on a website that markets spa technology.
"We've treated quite a few brain cancers that way and mostly very successful," he said. "We've been able to shrink brain cancers until they are undetectable. We have actually eliminated bladder cancer in a fellow in England."
Hill said his wife tried the generator treatments, but there was no measurable effect on her condition. He said Moira spent some of her last days waiting for the spa unit, which never arrived.
"Communication [from Pressman] stopped as soon as we decided to demand our money back," Hill said.
In his last email to Moira, Pressman signed off with, "My prayers are with you."
"I don't think he prays for anyone," Hill said.
He described his wife as a fighter, but after she dealt with Pressman, "her hope was gone."
Hill has filed a suit in a B.C. small claims court. Records show Pressman has not responded to the court action. A customer from Fraser Lake, B.C., Joyce Ellery, has filed a similar claim, alleging Pressman took her money and didn't deliver.
The Better Business Bureau of B.C. has also received complaints and has given Plasmafire International an "F" rating — for not responding to its inquiries.
"We always ask people to be very skeptical, especially when there is money involved — when there's a business," said Lynda Balneaves, who has a PhD in nursing and studies alternative cancer treatments for the University of British Columbia and the B.C. Cancer Agency.
She said ozone generators have no positive effect on cancer and can actually be dangerous.
"There have been studies where they have bathed cancer cells in ozone to see if it makes a difference — whether they live or die — and it's shown to have no difference," Balneaves said. "The cancer stays. It follows its normal course."
She said inserting the tube in body cavities to deliver the ozone could be lethal.
"People have ended up with what's called gas embolism — where the oxygen ends up in the blood stream which can cause severe health problems, including potentially death."
A company in the U.K, also called Plasmafire, was fined in 2000 after a terminally ill man used its ozone generator and spa system and was scalded by the steam. The judge called the machine sold by Plasmafire UK Ltd. "lethal."
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has taken action against several individuals for illegally selling ozone generators as medical devices. In 1999, a Florida man and woman were jailed for a total of eight years after continuing to market the devices for cancer treatment after being warned to stop.
In 2000, Health Canada put out a general warning about the generators for home use, which said ozone can damage lungs.
Following CBC News inquiries, the Competition Bureau indicated it is now looking into the business practices of Pressman and Plasmafire International.
"The Competition Bureau is examining the information that you brought to our attention to determine whether there has been a contravention of the Competition Act," Greg Scott, senior communications adviser, said in an email. "The Bureau takes all allegations of fraudulent or misleading claims very seriously. In several cases where we have found evidence that consumers were being misled by deceptive health claims, we have taken action."
Internet postings indicate Pressman has been openly marketing his ozone generators in Canada since 1993. He makes the generators himself but imports the spa system.
"I would suggest [the government] step in," Hill said. "Stop the sale of these pieces of equipment in Canada and look into it. Shut people like Pressman down for a time. Forever — in my opinion. Get in there and close it off."
Hill said he decided to expose Pressman to public scrutiny, as an act of love for his wife.
"I need to do this for Moira and myself and for my family," he said, with his voice breaking. "I want to establish hope again — for my family and others — that you can get guys like this."