Guernsey

David Noakes: UKIP hopeful turned 'cancer cure' seller

David Noakes
Image caption David Noakes was jailed for the production and sale of unlicensed medicines and fraud

A man with no medical qualifications who manufactured an unlicensed blood product marketed as a cancer "cure" has been jailed for 15 months.

Former UKIP leadership contender David Noakes illegally made products containing GcMAF, sold as a so-called cure for a number of conditions, including HIV and autism - and earned enough doing so to spend nearly £1m on planes.

So how did a man who had spent the bulk of his career working in IT come to lead the global supply of a medical product that he claimed helped thousands?

Born in London, 65-year-old Noakes worked in IT in the UK, USA, and Belgium, according to a CV posted on his website.

Witnessing "the waste close up" in Brussels, he wrote, Noakes turned campaigner against the UK's membership of the European Union, describing it as a "brutal police state" on his EUtruth site.

His views saw him gravitate to UKIP, standing for the party as a candidate in Truro and St Austell at the 2005 General Election and gaining 5.3% of the vote, an improvement on the party's 2001 showing.

In 2006, he came fourth in the party's leadership contest, losing to then MEP for the South East Nigel Farage.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Nigel Farage won the 2006 UKIP leadership contest in which David Noakes placed fourth

Noakes, who now lives in Dover in Kent, first encountered GcMAF in 2009, he said, after attending a conference at the University of Ghent while working for ING Bank in Belgium.

The chance encounter would change his life, leading him to take the blood product in 2010 and curing six minor ailments, he claimed in court.

By 2011 he had set up a lab with the aim of producing GcMAF, teaming up with scientists in the UK and the University of Florence in Italy.

The same year, Immuno Biotech Limited was registered as a Guernsey company for the "manufacture of chemicals, pharmaceuticals, fuels and their products".

Noakes, the owner, established an office in the island's main town, St Peter Port.

Image caption Noakes's estranged wife Lorraine helped distribute the blood plasma product from her home in Bournemouth

By 2013 he was calling on Guernsey's government to approve the use of GcMAF as a cancer treatment, claiming it would save the island's health department £3m per year - something it dismissed.

A group of supporters formed around Noakes in Guernsey, including terminally ill patients who were given the drug for free.

As his profile rose in the island, in 2015 Noakes was found guilty of sexual discrimination by an employment tribunal after he told a staff member "I only employ beautiful women".

Just weeks later he failed in an attempt to get elected to the island's parliament in a by-election prompted by the death of a serving deputy.

Image copyright Getty Images/man_at_mouse

What is GcMAF?

  • Sold as First Immune, Globulin component Macrophage Activating Factor is controversial in cancer research circles
  • Proponents say the naturally-occurring protein stimulates macrophages (a type of white blood cell), which kill invasive cells and alert other immune cells to the presence of infection
  • They say natural production of GcMAF is blocked by an enzyme called Nagalase produced by many cancers, so injecting cancer patients with additional GcMAF activates the body's own immune system
  • Critics, including Cancer Research UK, have said there are "significant scientific problems" with trials
  • They say trial groups were small and patients were receiving conventional treatment as well

Source: Cancer Research/BBC

Noakes has claimed up to 10,000 patients have taken GcMAF products supplied by his companies, which Southwark Crown Court heard generated sales of nearly £8m between 2011 and 2015.

By 2015, health regulators had taken action against Noakes, raiding his Cambridgeshire GcMAF lab in January and warning the public his unlicensed blood product may pose a significant risk to people's health.

Investigators seized 10,000 vials of GcMAF, raising concerns over whether the product was sterile and free from contamination.

Guernsey's authorities followed suit, banning the importation of the product and also making it illegal to market or sell an unlicensed medicine from or within Guernsey and its other islands.

In January 2016, Immuno Biotech's Guernsey office was raided by local law enforcement, and health inspectors visited two separate properties - part of what Noakes dismissed as a "smear campaign" in a local newspaper.

Image copyright Dancefloor Challenge Guernsey/Alan Bull
Image caption Dance instructor Jamie Le Tissier says he can now barely move around the dancefloor after he stopped taking GcMAF

Today, Noakes still has many vocal supporters, some of whom were in the public gallery at Southwark Crown Court for his sentencing.

Jamie Le Tissier, 49, is one person whose view of Noakes will not change despite his prison term.

Severe allergies have weakened Mr Le Tissier's liver and lungs, leading him being given GcMAF for free by Noakes before it was banned, he said.

Seventeen months solely taking the drug had remarkable effects, according to the dance instructor.

"I was getting my energy back, my fitness levels increased massively.

"As a dancer that makes a massive difference to me - I wasn't tiring just going round the floor once or twice," he said.

But after the ban, Mr Le Tissier claimed returning to his GP's treatment saw him regress and once again suffer from asthma and gout, leaving him on crutches.

"It's the only thing in 20 years that gave me my health back and they banned it.

"I've got the medical records behind me to prove it works for me - they should let me have it," he added.

Investigating Noakes: The BBC's Ruth Evans

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe BBC's telephone call to First Immune’s Guernsey office concerning the unlicensed blood drug GcMAF.

In 2015 I had a tip-off that David Noakes's company Immuno Biotech Ltd was still selling GcMAF, despite warnings it could pose a significant risk to health.

I called Immuno Biotech posing as the parent of an autistic child, and was told on the phone: "Our product is still available, it's just that we can't ship to the UK."

I was advised to give an address in Europe and have it shipped on from there.

It would cost 660 euros for one vial of GcMAF, plus 60 euros for a courier service. I was told they were regularly shipping the product overseas and spoke to a mother in the UAE who had who bought the treatment for her son.

She told me: "You have parents that are desperate and they're trying to help their kids and they'll do anything to help them, and I think they took advantage of that."

She feared for her son's health when she read about the MHRA warning: "I thought maybe his blood was poisoned, I was thinking the worst."

Image copyright Fiona O'Leary
Image caption Fiona O'Leary described Noakes as "a really bad man"

Despite having supporters around the globe, Noakes's prison sentence has been welcomed by one prominent campaigner.

Fiona O'Leary has for years been challenging claims made by Immuno Biotech over GcMAF's ability to provide a so-called cure for autism - something she finds particularly troubling.

David's Noakes's company had claimed 85% of people with autism "responded" to the product, while "15% made full recoveries".

Autism is, however, a lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder. with no known cure.

Noakes's jailing was "justice" for the autistic community, Mrs O'Leary said.

"I think he's a really bad man," the mother of two autistic children said.

"We need to make examples of people - quacks and charlatans that experiment and hurt vulnerable people and children."

More on this story