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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.

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