Sir Colin Meads still using Te Kiri Gold Water, despite experts' warning
Sir Colin Meads thought Te Kiri Gold bleach water was going to save him from pancreatic cancer.
But the 80-year-old rugby great now admits, "I thought it had cured me, but it hadn't."
The tonic being used by hundreds to treat their cancer at $100 a two-litre bottle is effectively diluted bleach and a "snake oil cure", according to expert Shaun Holt. At its highest recommended dose, customers are advised to drink 600ml a day for eight weeks, the equivalent of 17 bottles, costing $1700.
Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year, Meads started drinking Te Kiri Gold after the inventor, Taranaki dairy farmer Vernon Coxhead, stopped in at Meads' home in Te Kuiti.
"'This will help you, and it will make you better,' I think he said," Meads said.
Meads was convinced he was cured six or so weeks later and asked his doctor to reassess him.
"They eventually bowed to my wishes, gave me another scan, and it wasn't cured, put it that way. But it hadn't got any worse."
In the latest letter from Waikato Hospital, his doctor writes: "Sir Colin remains remarkably resilient."
Asparagus, lemon, water from Lourdes in France - if it might work, Meads is trying it.
Meads doesn't pay for Te Kiri Gold, and doesn't know how much it costs.
A company with Coxhead and American doctor Mitchell Feller as major shareholders is selling the water product called Te Kiri Gold for $100 while conducting an in-house clinical trial slammed by medical experts.
Coxhead's company, PureCure, could earn more than half a million dollars if 300 people took the recommended eight-week dose.
Meads' doctor told him Te Kiri Gold won't help him and Meads has received calls from people telling him Te Kiri Gold is bunk.
Meads doesn't see a problem with speaking his mind on the matter.
"I just tell them that it helped me. I just say I take it."
Dr Shaun Holt, who lectures on natural medicines and clinical trials at Victoria University in Wellington, wishes celebrities wouldn't comment about unproven remedies.
"Even if he retracts these comments down the line, people will use these comments for years to come."
Holt says the people behind these products sometimes genuinely believe they're helping people.
Waikato University associate professor of inorganic chemistry Graham Saunders says the product amounts to "basically dilute bleach".
Electrolysed water is a known disinfectant. Saunders said it is created by passing an electrical current through saltwater, creating hypochlorous acid, which remains in the water.
"What happens is the hypochlorous acid eventually breaks down into chlorine gas and the gas is lost from the water, that's why swimming pools smell of chlorine," Saunders says.
TKG has this familiar smell, and is labelled as containing less than 1 per cent hypochlorous acid. Saunders said it is likely harmless at that percentage.
Hawera GP Feller backs the product, but isn't willing to speak about it in an interview.
Finding the American doctor, as he's known around the small South Taranaki town, proved difficult.
He doesn't own property and has moved twice since registering the company PureCure to a rental address in June 2016. He immediately hung up when Stuff rang him.
As a result, not much is known about Feller's motivations.
His American conviction for prescribing himself OxyContin in 2005 has been reported.
After moving to New Zealand, his medical licence was removed in 2014 after the international agency which hired him pulled its contract. It was reinstated later that year, and he continues to practise at Mountainview Medical Centre.
He said in a previous interview that he has clinical trial experience, but a direct financial interest in Te Kiri Gold constitutes a direct conflict of interest.
Despite talk of a clinical trial, he failed to follow clinical trial protocols a registered doctor should know. Meads might know more, but he's not willing to say. He spoke with the doctor once or twice on the phone and took issue with his attitude. While Meads has little to say about Feller, he was willing to talk about Coxhead.
By all accounts he's a simple Taranaki recently certified organic dairy farmer with a fondness for analogies and a penchant for conspiracies.
"[Te Kiri Gold] is a threat to a lot of money," Coxhead says. "It's like coming up with a car that runs on water."
A mitt of a handshake and a humble smile, it's hard to imagine Coxhead anywhere but on a farm.
And he offers a friendly voice at the end of the phone for those seeking a solution to their terminal situation.
On the Facebook group of those taking Te Kiri Gold, one man thanks Coxhead for "the pep talk"."I tell people, 'Look, you'll be fine, just stick with this and you'll be fine.' Someone said to me, 'You can't do that, that's giving people false hope', " Coxhead says.
"How can you have false hope? You either got no hope, or you've got some hope. And if you get told everyday you're going to die, you're going to die."
Holt understands this attitude.
"A lot of people out there have a huge disgust with modern medicine and pharmaceutical companies - bordering on conspiracy theories Companies and products like this certainly play on that.
Cancer Society medical director Chris Jackson adds that people with advanced cancers can be vulnerable.
"We would want to ensure that people were not exploited or taken advantage of by unscrupulous practitioners or misled about the potential benefits of any potential therapies."
Meads continues to take Te Kiri Gold, along with everything else, just in case.
His wife, Verna, Lady Meads, says: "Has anyone in your family had cancer? They'd try that, wouldn't they? They'd try anything."