[2/21/17] JACK BURNS-Samuel Girod, an Amish farmer from Lexington, Kentucky, will go to trial on February 27th, charged with conspiracy, distributing misbranded drugs, and threatening a witness. The reason: he makes a healing salve, an ointment he’s been producing for over 20 years, and the Food and Drug Administration isn’t happy about how he markets it.
Girod became a targeted individual of the federal government’s FDA, since someone from Missouri, in 2013, reported the Amish man to the state health department. At issue, were claims the company made about its balm, which is made from ingredients like rosemary, beeswax, peppermint, chickweed, eucalyptus oil, olive oil, lavender oil, and comfrey.
Officials with the FDA say it’s not what’s inside his product that concerns them, but rather, the claims the farmer made about his product, principally, that it cures cancer. Girod said that a customer who had skin cancer used the all-natural product and reported to him it had cured his cancer. So the Amish farmer put that report in his advertising of the product.
“He’s not allowed to say that…so he changed the label. And then he called it ‘Healing Chickweed Salve’,” said one supporter. Ultimately, she said Girod was forced to call his product “Original Chickweed Salve.” Another of his products, To-Mor-Gone, also made similar claims about its ability to heal cancerous tumors. The product contains bloodroot plant extract, said to be caustic to the skin.
The father of 12, and grandfather of 25 doesn’t seem to understand why he cannot make claims about his products, nor does he understand how the oppressive system works to keep innovators like himself, from bringing natural medicines to market.
While officials use the argument they’re protecting consumers from products and manufacturers who make incredible claims about their untested products, even if Girod’s healing balm did in fact cure cancer, he could never tell anyone that fact. The first reason he could not do so is the barrier of testing, research, and approvals process the FDA has in place to bring pharmaceuticals to market. It’s lengthy, expensive, full of bureaucracy, and would bankrupt any Amish farmer who attempted to get a product certified through the FDA.
One controversial aspect of the FDA’s certification process is that it is redundant. For example, GW Pharmaceuticals has already gone through the United Kingdom’s certification process to bring their product, Sativex (a cannabis-derived sub-lingual spray for pain, spasms, and epilepsy) to market. But now that the company wants to sell the product in the U.S., the company has to, once again, go through all of the approval processes, a process which has lasted well over 3 years now in the U.S., costing the company millions of dollars. So it’s easy to see how and why one lone farmer, whose product has no chemical medicines inside of it, would even care to attempt the approval process.
It’s not just that the farmer makes claims about his product which has gotten him in trouble, it’s also that he’s put those claims in writing, has refused to allow the FDA to inspect his production facilities, and has treated any attempts to do so with hostility. “Prosecutors pointed out that back in 2013, a federal judge in Missouri banned Girod from distributing these products until he met certain conditions. Those conditions include allowing the FDA to inspect where Girod made the goods. According to the indictment, the FDA says their officers were prevented from conducting an inspection at the farm. They also say Girod continued to sell the products without letting his customers know they were the subject of a court-ordered injunction,” writes WKYT.
However, local residents and family, who’ve bought his product for decades, disagree.
“I think everybody in the community has heard about it,” said Bath County resident, Suza Moody, explaining how everyone in the community is up in arms over how this man is jail and facing 68 years — for a homeade salve he sold to willing customers.
“I can’t even figure out what he has done wrong,” said Moody. “They live at the foot of the cross and the thought of one of them intentionally doing something wrong is outrageous.”
Being Amish, and not trusting lawyers, Girod is representing himself. He failed to be present for a court hearing, and was later arrested on “failure to appear” charges.
“Sam is a very literal person. This hearing didn’t say, ‘Hey Sam you’ve got to be here.’ It just said there’s a status hearing in your case and he thought he didn’t have to show up. It was a mistake on his part, but because he is not an attorney, he just doesn’t understand,” said family friend, Sally Oh.
Moody pointed out a possible reason for this attack on Girod, “They are targeting the Amish because they don’t threaten. They don’t fight back, and they don’t like lawyers.”
“They are just devastated. I mean when they brought him out in handcuffs. It was awful,” said Oh.
In the meantime, the makers of OxyContin, the drug responsible for thousands of deaths a year, are likely enjoying a $25,000 lunch with department heads in the FDA. Shameful, indeed.