The former pharmaceutical company executive promised to restore the health of terminally ill dogs and allegedly bilked pet owners of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
A Pennsylvania man who served eight years in prison for the beating death of his wife is now facing federal criminal charges following a multi-year scheme to defraud dog owners by telling them that the drugs he sold to them could cure canine cancer.
Jonathan Nyce, 70, from Collegeville, PA, was indicted in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia for wire fraud and the interstate shipment of misbranded animal drugs, according to a Department of Justice press release. The indictment, announced Tuesday by U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain, alleges that about eight years ago Nyce created several companies, most notably CanineCare.US, through which he purportedly developed and sold all-natural cancer-curing medications for dogs. His research, he claimed, was “funded in part by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.”
In 2014, Nyce received a warning letter from the FDA stating that the products he was selling were “unapproved new animal drugs and your marketing of them violates the [Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic] Act.” Statements made about one line of products—Tumexal—included these:
“…Tumexal is effective against a wide array of canine cancers.”
“…Tumexal will almost always restore a cancer-stricken dog’s appetite, spirit and energy!”
“Tumexal blocks canine cancer growth by restoring the activity of the p53 tumor suppressor pathway.”
In fact, the indictment alleges, the drugs were “nothing more than a collection of bulk ingredients from various sources” compounded by Nyce at a facility near his home.” The indictment further states that “the defendant’s marketing, sale, and shipment of these drugs in interstate commerce is alleged to have violated the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act because the drugs were not approved by the FDA,” according to the release.
Beware of 'quackery'
Brennen McKenzie, MA, MSc, VMD, called Tumexal “snake oil” in a 2014 post on her blog skeptvet.com, outlining classic warning signs that a product should not be trusted to do what is claimed.
Dr. McKenzie told dvm360 via email that he hopes this indictment will “serve as a warning not only to purveyors of quack remedies but to veterinarians and pet owners that we should shun products that exhibit the same warning signs—exaggerated and implausible claims without supporting scientific evidence, reliance on testimonials and a foundation of ‘insight’ from lone geniuses who never seem to publish any real data.”
Pet owners desperate to help their dogs beat their illness paid Nyce “hundreds or thousands of dollars” for these supposed cures, according to the release. To unsuspecting owners desperate for their pets to get well, Tumexal offered the hope they sought. Many also paid Nyce to enroll their dogs in bogus clinical trials with the medications he sold them.
“The defendant’s alleged conduct here is shameful,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “Pets quickly become part of the family. And when they become sick, caring owners look for hope, often doing everything they can to keep their beloved pets alive and well. The defendant is charged with taking advantage of that nurturing instinct in the worst way possible by defrauding pet owners and giving them false hope that they might be able to save their dying pet.”
Nyce, a molecular biologist with a PhD from Temple University, founded the pharmaceutical company EpiGenesis in 1995 but left in 2003 after a breakthrough asthma drug it was developing was shelved. He was convicted in 2005 for beating his wife of 15 years to death in a jealous rage and served eight years in prison for “passion provocation manslaughter.”
Nyce is expected to surrender to authorities within days to face the current charges. If convicted, he faces a maximum possible sentence of 32 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,250,000.