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Friday, April 27, 2012

23: Reading Between the Lines

When we’re reading to educate ourselves on issues of personal health, it’s important that we learn to read between the lines. I am finding that there are two distinct camps out there: one is the mainstream; the other is alternative. The former is generally fuelled and powered—and influenced in philosophy—by Big Pharma. It urges you to leave your health in the hands of the “professionals” and not ask too many questions. The latter encourages one to take responsibility for one’s own health. And the former seems continually to throw out fear tactics regarding natural supplements and remedies, trying to scare us “lost sheep” back into the prescription-medication fold. However, as we weigh out different opinions and listen to our hearts, we will find there is a sense of which voices to trust.

When I sat down to write my last article, Burzynski’s Battle, I decided to first run a Google search on the man just to see what general information I would find. I ended up at Wikipedia, and what I read there about him really set me back on my heels. His so-called cure for cancer, antineoplastins, does not—according to the article—work; he currently has a patient suing him for charging her nearly $100,000 for a cure that failed; and he was convicted of insurance fraud in 2010 for billing a health insurance company for use of an unapproved drug. Sounds really bad, doesn’t it?

When I first read this, I felt my heart shifting in my attitude toward this man, this medical maverick who has become of martyr of the system. Had I been wrong in my whole perception of the issue?

Then I sat down to review the movie again. In light of what I had just read on Wikipedia, certain parts of the movie leapt out in significance. When people began coming from all over the States to try the cancer cure, emissaries from the Texas Medical Board chased down various patients, trying to talk them into filing complaints against Burzynski. Most of them told the TMB to get lost. However, given that with some of the most severe cancers, antineoplastins have only a 25% cure rate (which fact is clearly spelled out in the film—and which is still a great improvement over the conventional treatments in these cases), it’s not hard to imagine that after almost 30 years the TMB would eventually find one disgruntled patient whom they could incite to legal action.

Antineoplastins don’t work? Perhaps because, as Burzynski: The Movie spells out, when the FDA finally agreed to oversee clinical trials, they refused to use them as directed by Dr. Burzynski. As far back as the mid-eighties, the FDA made it clear that they were no longer trying to deny the efficacy of Dr. B's treatments. Their pitch was to take away his medical license because his treatments were not “approved.” With human lives hanging in the balance, if the antagonists can concede that the treatment is effective, why must they bicker about red tape? As Jesus said, “You strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.”

The insurance fraud: no details are given. We’re not told that the treatment failed; only that it wasn’t approved. If the patient was treated, it seems reasonable for the doctor to make a claim for reimbursement. (I myself have had difficulty off and on with our extended health plan, as my prescriptions for bioidentical hormones often do not meet their criteria. Read: The drug companies that are in alliance with my benefit plan do not/cannot hold a patent on most bioidentical products. At least they didn’t sue me for insurance fraud for submitting the claim!)

The Wikipedia articles go on to criticize the documentary itself, calling it “one-sided,” saying that only those who are in support of Burzynski were interviewed. Hmm. The FDA refused to be interviewed on camera regarding their complaints against Burzynski.

As I wrestled with trying to get a clear perspective on this whole subject, my son Ben pointed out that Wikipedia is to a large extent peer-written; that is, articles can be submitted by anyone, then information may be changed or expanded as contradictory or complementary material comes in. A good thing to remember. Like I said, we have to learn to read between the lines.

By the way, my last article ended with mention of the TMB’s new court date (April 11) with Dr. Burzynski. News flash: April 5, the judges dismissed the majority of the case against Dr. B, causing the Texas Medical Board to seek indefinite postponement of the hearing as they scramble to regroup.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

22: Burzynski’s Battle

Recently I watched a documentary, the story of a medical doctor and Ph.D. biochemist who has discovered the genetic mechanism that can cure most human cancers.

The movie opens with a bereaved father giving testimony before a congressional subcommittee hearing, February 29, 1996. At the age of four, his daughter was diagnosed with a highly malignant brain tumour. The parents were given two options by mainstream medicine: massive radiation and chemotherapy or take her home to die.

The radiation burnt her little skull so badly that she had second-degree burns on her scalp and her hair never grew back. Her urine was so toxic that her parents had to wear rubber gloves when they changed her diapers. She survived the awful treatment, but six months later the cancer was still there and the doctors said, sorry, they could do no more.

He and his wife, looking for alternatives, came across Dr. Burzynski’s work and were able to put their daughter under his care. The treatment was successful. A short while after being declared cancer-free, however, she died of “neurological necrosis”: her brain fell apart from the previous radiation. The autopsy confirmed the complete resolution of the tumour: out of 52 known cases of this particular cancer, this little girl was the only one to die cancer-free.

Born in Poland in 1943, Stanislaw Burzynski graduated with an M.D. from the Medical Academy in Lublin in 1967, at the top of his class. A year later, at the age of 25, he received a Ph.D. in biochemistry. It was while doing research for his thesis that he made an amazing discovery: he found a strain of peptides in human blood and urine never before recorded. Then he discovered that people afflicted with cancer were lacking these peptides. Healthy people, by contrast, had an abundance. His theory was that if he could somehow extract these peptides from healthy donors and administer them to cancer patients, perhaps it would be helpful in treatment. This is exactly, in a nutshell, what bore out. These antineoplastons, as Burzynski calls them, target the specific genes that allow cancer to grow and flourish.

In 1976, he established the Burzynski Research Institute Inc. in Texas and began treating patients with these non-toxic compounds of proteins and amino acids, often with remarkable success. However, since the 1980s, Burzynski has been in a battle with the Texas Medical Board and the FDA. They couldn’t make stick their claims that the treatment is unsafe or ineffective: they cling instead to the complaint that there have been no FDA-approved clinical trials. At $25 million per trial, this is cost-prohibitive for this doctor and his small staff. Of the National Cancer Institute’s annual budget of $5,200,000,000, not a nickel has ever come Burzynski’s way.

This makes no sense to the average person until the documentary takes us a little deeper. We see how “Big Pharma” has got the FDA neatly in their back pocket by having instituted an approval fee—of 1.4 million—for each new cancer drug they come up with. Pharmaceutical companies pay the FDA this fee “to assure a timely approval.” So we see that the FDA is essentially on the payroll of the very industry it regulates. Did someone say “conflict of interest”?

The first court proceedings against Burzynski were at the state level with the plaintiff being the Texas Medical Board. The judge ruled in Burzynski’s favour, with the proviso that he not ship his medicine beyond the borders of Texas. However, when word spread regarding these cures, people came from all over the country. Some of these patients were approached by the Texas Board of Medical Examiners, trying to talk them into filing some form of complaint against Burzynski.

Then the Board took Burzynski to a higher district court, fighting to suspend his medical license because his treatments had never been approved. They were no longer trying to question the effectiveness of his treatment: “The efficacy of antineoplastons in the treatment of human cancers is not of issue in these proceedings.”

Dr. B won the round again.

Now the FDA took it all the way to the Texas Supreme Court, trying to get Burzynski’s licence revoked. They, along with Big Pharma, realized that if Dr. B’s discovery was given a fair review process, chemotherapy and radiation treatment would dwindle into obscurity, financially crippling their industry; also those fat research monies might be diverted away from Pharma and into the lap of one scientist who holds exclusive patent rights.

Declared Dr. Richard J. Crout, FDA Bureau of Drugs Director, “I never have and never will approve a new drug to an individual, but only to a large pharmaceutical firm.”

It was in 1983 that the FDA commenced civil action to try to close the clinic and stop patients from receiving the medicine. Before the judge announced her ruling, the FDA sent her a letter warning that if she ruled in Burzynski’s favour, they would be obliged to pursue other “less efficient remedies.” Nevertheless, Burzynski case won out.

Frustrated, the FDA told Dr. B’s attorneys they had “other ways to get him.” In 1985 they convened a grand jury to try to indict him. In connection with that, they raided his clinic and home, seizing 200,000 pieces of paper including all his patients’ medical records, and mounted a propaganda campaign against his drugs, hoping to get the doctor thrown into jail. Result of the grand jury: no indictment.

In 1986, another raid, another grand jury: no indictment. In 1990, another grand jury, no indictment. In 1994, another grand jury: no indictment. One wonders who was paying all these court costs. In 1995, yet another grand jury.

The documentary goes on, mingling testimonials of stunning recoveries of cancer patients with high intrigue, lies, and betrayal: a woman who teamed up for a while with Dr. B jumped ship and took all the info to a major pharmaceutical firm.

The FDA finally agreed to clinical trials but a) insisted on having chemo and radiation done on patients first; b) took on patients with more extreme issues than the parameters agreed upon with Dr. B for a given protocol of the drug; and c) “watered down” the antineoplastons used. Perhaps this explains why some sources, including Wikipedia, say that antineoplastons don’t work.

This documentary in many ways unfolds like a suspense-drama fiction, but the subject of the story is a real man, now 69 years old. One wonders how he has the stamina and financial resources to battle the powers that be and still continue to treat patients. This month, after a 15-year hiatus, the Texas Medical Board is again dragging him back into court, “attempting once again to strip Burzynski of his medical license for simply using ‘off-label’ medications on some of his cancer patients ..., despite outside oncologists hailing this therapy as the ‘wave of the future’ and countless calls to have the case dismissed.”