Australia’s drug regulator has started court proceedings against a “healing church” that promoted a solution containing industrial bleach as a cure for coronavirus, after the church failed to remove advertisements promoting the product from its website.
In May the Therapeutic Goods Administration fined the Australian chapter of the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing more than $150,000 for selling and promoting the solution containing sodium chlorite, a chemical used as a textile bleaching agent and disinfectant. The product is named Miracle Mineral Supplement and Miracle Mineral Solution on the church’s MMS Australia website, which claimed it could prevent and treat a range of diseases including Covid-19. The TGA said the company had breached multiple advertising laws.
At the time, the TGA also informed MMS Australia that it must also immediately remove all advertisements in breach of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989, and warned that court action might be started if the advertisements were not removed within two days. But MMS Australia did not remove the ads. Instead, it updated the website to say those seeking miracle cures should also “pray to The Lord for healing and guidance”.
There is no clinical, scientifically accepted evidence showing that the solution can cure or alleviate any disease. The use of the solution “presents serious health risks, and can result in nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and severe dehydration, which in some cases can result in hospitalisation”, the TGA said.
In April the church’s US leader, Mark Grenon, wrote to Donald Trump just days before the US president claimed that bleach could be a coronavirus cure. Grenon called the product “a wonderful detox that can kill 99% of the pathogens in the body” and added that it “can rid the body of Covid-19”.
The TGA has begun federal court proceedings to obtain an injunction restraining MMS Australia and its director, Charles Barton, from advertising or supplying the goods. It will also seek orders that MMS Australia and Barton pay penalties for alleged contraventions of the act.
The MMS Australia website was updated after the fine to say those seeking the bleach solution and other products urgently could add a $5 express shipping voucher to their online shopping basket to jump to the front of the queue.
The website now requires a login to access information. It also states: “By using this website you agree that you will not make complaint, enquiry or give notice to any alleged regulatory authority in relation to any information relating to this website, including but not limited to any names of items mentioned on this website or to any information relating any of the items on this website or to any information contained on this site whatsoever.”
The TGA’s application to the court states that MMS Australia should remove the login requirement “within 72 hours”. MMA Australia should “ensure that access to the website is not subject to the provision of a user name, password, telephone number or any other similar sign-in requirement, with the intention that the website shall be readily accessible by, and able to be monitored by the applicant and officers of the Therapeutic Goods Administration”.
In a statement, the TGA said it was particularly concerned about the harmful effects that can be caused by the ingestion of MMS, and published a safety alert to warn consumers about claims made about MMS for the treatment, cure, prevention or alleviation of disease, including Covid-19.
The TGA’s application to the court says MMS advertisements also made “prohibited representations” about what the solution could do for cancer, herpes and HIV.
The secretary of the Department of Health said MMS and the bleach solution were not registered in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods and cannot lawfully be sold as therapeutic goods in the country.