James McDonald ran a mail order health food company.   He was selling melatonin for jetlag.  He had asked the MHRA (it was known as the MCA at the time – Medicines Control Agency) if he needed to apply to them for a license and they replied to him in writing saying that a license wasn’t required as it was a natural product and were not interested in him.

But …….. when he became successful, making good money from it, nice big house etc the MCA together with a SWAT team broke down his door, raided his house, seized his stock and files and computers etc.   They had no arrest warrant but he found himself hauled into court.  The MCA declared that jetlag is now a medical condition.

The whole thing caused his wife to get cancer and die and one of his daughters was found drowned.   He ended up losing everything.  He’s been through a dreadful ordeal and from what I’ve heard he’s not recovered.  The irony of it was that when he was hauled into court by the MCA it turned out the Judge’s wife was one of his customers.

What these regulatory bodies do is move the goal posts and bend or break their own rules.

Here is a synopsis in James McDonald’s own words:

In 1995 I ran a health foods mail order business called Nutrizec, I sold green foods, vitamins and minerals and  herbs. I also imported a supplement ( natural compound ) called melatonin. I sold melatonin to combat side effects  of jet lag. Because jet lag was not a medical condition and melatonin was a natural compound and I made no claims the Medicine Control Agency did not have any issues. My product was imported from the USA and it was called Source Naturals, a leading US brand. In 1995 -1996  I actually worked closely with one of the UK’s leading experts on melatonin Dr Josephine Arendt from the University of Guildford. I also worked with Dr Pierpauli – the world’s leading scientists on melatonin. This products had many hundreds of clinical studies ( many on jet-lag) to prove safety and efficacy in fact melatonin could not be granted a medical licence because it was a natural compound, so drug companies were not interested, it had no LD50 – a lethal dose that kills 50% of all subjects – all drugs have LD50 !! My business had over 3000 customers buying melatonin, many of these were pilots and flight crew, famous actors, and the England Euro 96 Football Team, approved by the FA doctor. I worked a family business from home ( luckily I had a large house with a separate office and stock room) with my wife, we had four young kids and we employed friends and family to help us.

In 1996 there was a big press article in the Sunday Express Magazine about the benefits of melatonin being an amazing sleeping pill which 10 million Americans were using. A picture of the bottle of my brand melatonin (Source Naturals)  was put on every page… ( I think the article was a set up ) In  late 1996 and into 1997   the Medicines Control Agency ( now MRCA I think ) wrote to tell me that I could not supply melatonin for jet lag because jet lag was now a medical condition !! What !! How can jet lag be a medical condition, well as it turned out …sure enough the Medicines Act of 1952  had a brand new amendment stating that if you suffer jet lag you need to go see your GP ! This meant that the product was now a class C drug – like cannabis. I took legal advice and wrote to the MCA objecting to the ruling asking for them to consider the evidence. Within a short time of this happening,  Dr Josphine Arendt refused to speak to me, the FA claimed the FA  players did not use the product and my phones were tapped and I was being followed by two men every single day for 14 days. I know this because their evidence was produced in court to prove that I sold melatonin – strange because not once did I try to hide the fact that I was selling melatonin !! So why did they need to tap my phones and put two investigators on me.  The Health Food Manufacturers sided with the MCA and the products as pulled form the shops and a ban was placed on sales.

In 1997  the MCA along with riot police or SAS type squad in black outfits sealed off my home in Woosehill with squad cars and guns , put up barriers in the cul-de sac, sent up a helicopter ( I presume to stop me escaping ) and bust my front door in and raided my home, about  4 pm – just when my kids just got back from school. They had a warrant to search and confiscate as they saw fit. They took all my stock, all my customer records and all my computers, money related to the business, all bank details, books -everything. They terrified the kids and my wife and me and left after 2 hours. A huge white van arrived to take the goods away.The next day on the front page of the Wokingham Times was a headline ‘DRUGS BARON HOME RAIDED ‘. Actually they did not have an arrest warrant for me but they charged me and I had to appear in the Magistrates Court in Bracknell.

The actions of the MCA and Police meant that I had no business or money – they took all my business records for everything,  I couldn’t  even telephone a single customer and I lost over £10,000 worth of stock. It took me 8 weeks  to get some of my files back but the computers were confiscated , so was my stock, and much of the tools I needed to run my business. I had to close down my business and soon had no choice to declare myself bankrupt. I also had to find the money to pay a legal team to defend me in my first court case, in late 1997 and the subsequent 2 more court cases.  At the end of the 1st hearing the magistrate asked for a precedent so that he could impose a verdict and a penalty. There was none ! So case adjourned and a new hearing in 1998 was set for Maidenhead Magistrate Court. The same result – no precedent – so case now referred to high court in Reading with a judge. In 1999 my case was heard- in County Court in Reading there I was sitting in between two policemen- in case I was sent to prison. During his time my wife was diagnosed  with cancer, she was very sick, we reckoned that the trauma of the last few years caused her illness. Luckily for me ( a miracle to be fair ) the Judge’s wife was a customer of mine and had been using melatonin to help her sleep. I had to undergo a psychiatric assessment before my court case and at the trial the prosecution said the reasons for my actions was that because I had attended public school I was more likely to commit such a crime !! Thankfully for me the judge had attended a much more expensive and more salubrious public school  than me so he simply hurled the document at the acne spotty faced prosecutor. At the end of the hearing, the judge was definitely on my side and his language was such he said that he was appalled this case was brought to trial but he had no option but to impose some penalty. So he set 50 hours community service – just so he could set a precedent. He also made it clear that the costs incurred by the prosecution ( £280,000) over 4 years was not my responsibility and they had to pay their own costs.

In the next 3 years  my wife died from cancer, I lost my home and I had to declare myself bankrupt. I had to care for 4 young kids. In the fact the trauma of losing their mother impacted one of my girls so traumatically that she was found drowned in a marina in Brighton in 2010. The police declared an open verdict. But deep down I know the reasons why. So you could say that I was made a scapegoat, used by the MCA to set an example, abandoned by my very own industry colleagues but I prefer to say taken out the game by #BigPharma !!

Yours sincerely

James McDonald

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