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Medicine Science

'Alternative Medicine' Clinic Attempts To Silence Critics 515

Posted by Soulskill
from the my-science-can-beat-up-your-science dept.
Asmodae writes "Stanislaw Burzynski runs a clinic specializing in an alternative cancer treatment called 'antineoplaston therapy,' and charges thousands of dollars for the privilege. Unfortunately, there's no scientific support for such treatment, and skeptics all over the web are raising red flags and trying to warn potential patients away. This includes high-school blogger Rhys Morgan, who has received legal threats from Burzynski's clinic for his efforts. Phil Plait summarizes the situation thus: 'In general, it’s a little unusual, to say the least, for a team doing medical research to sue someone for criticizing them. That’s because real science thrives on criticism, since it’s only through critiques that the potential errors of a particular method can be assessed — that’s why research is supposed to be published in peer-reviewed journals as well. Suing is the antithesis of that idea. ... I’ll note that the clinic has threatened to sue multiple people, including Peter Bowditch and Andy Lewis, two other bloggers who have criticized antineoplaston therapy.'"
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'Alternative Medicine' Clinic Attempts To Silence Critics

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  • Storm... (Score:5, Informative)

    by skinlayers (621258) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:12PM (#38206204)

    I give you, Tim Michin's "Storm"

    [...]And try as hard as I like,
    A small crack appears
    In my diplomacy-dike.
    “By definition”, I begin
    “Alternative Medicine”, I continue
    “Has either not been proved to work,
    Or been proved not to work.
    You know what they call “alternative medicine”
    That’s been proved to work?
    Medicine.”[...]

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhGuXCuDb1U [youtube.com]

  • Oblig. xkcd (Score:5, Informative)

    by CraftyJack (1031736) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:14PM (#38206224)
    http://xkcd.com/971/ [xkcd.com]
    Not usually a fan, but the caption is worthwhile: "...Telling someone who trusts you that you're giving them medicine, when you know you’re not, because you want their money, isn’t just lying--it’s like an example you’d make up if you had to illustrate for a child why lying is wrong."
  • by G3ckoG33k (647276) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:18PM (#38206296)

    From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudoscience#Identifying_pseudoscience [wikipedia.org]:

    "A field, practice, or body of knowledge might reasonably be called pseudoscientific when it is presented as consistent with the norms of scientific research; but it demonstrably fails to meet these norms. [...] Examples of pseudoscience concepts, proposed as scientific when they are not scientific, are creation science, intelligent design, orgone energy, N-rays, ch'i, L. Ron Hubbard's engram theory, enneagram, iridology, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, New Age psychotherapies (e.g., rebirthing therapy), reflexology, applied kinesiology, astrology, biorhythms, facilitated communication, plant perception, extrasensory perception (ESP), Velikovsky's ideas, von Däniken's ideas, Sitchen's ideas, anthropometry, post-normal science, craniometry, graphology, metoposcopy, personology, physiognomy, acupuncture, alchemy, cellular memory, Lysenkoism, naturopathy, reiki, Rolfing, therapeutic touch, ayurvedic medicine, and homeopathy. Robert T. Carroll stated in part: "Pseudoscientists claim to base their theories on empirical evidence, and they may even use some scientific methods, though often their understanding of a controlled experiment is inadequate. Many pseudoscientists relish being able to point out the consistency of their ideas with known facts or with predicted consequences, but they do not recognize that such consistency is not proof of anything. It is a necessary condition but not a sufficient condition that a good scientific theory be consistent with the facts."

    There must be some Federal Bureau Against Quacks, or something.

  • by MikeyC01 (231948) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:28PM (#38206416) Homepage

    http://skepticalhumanities.com/2011/11/26/stanislaw-burzynskis-public-record/ [skepticalhumanities.com]

    Oh crap, now I'm gonna get sued! I shoulda posted AC

  • by TopSpin (753) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:35PM (#38206508) Journal

    The dead don't complain much. This isn't being flippant. I personally knew a woman that took the 'alternative' road to 'cure' her breast cancer. It took four years to kill her.

    They promised their blood 'filter' machine therapy would reverse the growth. They convinced her surgery was an unnecessary aberration of 'western' medicine, at a time when the 'western' surgeons offered at good prognosis for success. They fed here special diets, pills and all sorts of other stuff. The point of no return was eventually crossed and surgery was no longer an option.

    There are a lot of quacks haunting Big Cancer because there is a lot of money sloshing around. All of the above was funded by employer provided insurance.

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:35PM (#38206512) Journal

    The critic that you refer to made specific libelous claims. He isn't being sued because he's skeptical, he's being sued because he slandered a scientist by making claims of ill conduct. If the claimant had had any evidence of the scientist's ill conduct, he would have provided it, and thus (except in Britain) have walked away satisfied that he had taken down a climatologist. Instead, the claimant turned out to be a serial liar who had made false claims against other scientists.

  • Complain to the FDA (Score:3, Informative)

    by Animats (122034) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:38PM (#38206552) Homepage

    There must be some Federal Bureau Against Quacks, or something.

    There is. [youtube.com]

    See Lengthy Jail Sentence for Vendor of Laetrile -- A Quack Medication to Treat Cancer Patients [fda.gov]. They finally nailed Jason Vale, the guy behind Laetrile, the apricot-pit "cancer cure". He did over 5 years in a Federal pen as prisoner #09073-067.

  • by thisnamestoolong (1584383) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:39PM (#38206578)
    Seriously. Hearing about this shit makes me see red. What sort of low-life, piece of shit assholes run this clinic? Not only are they scamming people who are extremely vulnerable (some of whom could potentially be helped and/or saved by real medical intervention), they have the unmitigated audacity to try to silence critics who would out them. This is beyond unacceptable. I think we all need to stand in solidarity with Rhys Morgan and let this asshole know what we think.

    On that note: Fuck you, Stanislaw Burzynski, you lying, quack, fraudulent piece of shit. I hope you end up rotting in a prison cell for what you have done.
  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:40PM (#38206588) Journal

    WTF are you talking about? For most cancers, five year survival rates have been steadily climbing for decades. The fact is that this guy is displaying all the traits of quackery; refusal to publish or even to co-operate with researchers, taking money directly from patients and now attempting to silence critics. If he had something real, he'd go through the accepted channels and right now would likely be getting ready to cash his first massive check from some Big Pharma company.

  • by theelectron (973857) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:45PM (#38206626)
    "The rate of cancer survival in the medical industry is pretty bad ~ shouldn't the entire industry be criticized more?" Isn't that like saying 'the rate of head gunshot wound survival is pretty bad, shouldn't the entire medical industry be criticized more?', or about Alzheimer's, or decapitation, etc. They're working on it. It is just that some things are easier to solve than others.
  • by squidflakes (905524) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @05:06PM (#38206856) Homepage

    The problem I've noticed with a lot of Libertarian arguments on topics like this is that they omit the biggest part of choice, which is information. Without informed choice, no good decisions can be made. If product A and product B are both supposed to cure missing limbs, but product A is a miracle pill that makes you regrow arms and legs and what-not and product B is a 2X4 with a nail in it, which would you choose? How would you know which to choose without information? How would you know that Product B is far inferior if the company were able to silence their critics like the "doctor" in this article?

    Obviously, my example is hyperbole, but it was done to make a point. Without informed choice, there really is no valid choice.

  • Re:Storm... (Score:5, Informative)

    by squizzar (1031726) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @05:10PM (#38206900)

    If you followed the link you'd have seen that argument covered later in the song... A certain extract of the willow tree is mentioned.

  • by slimjim8094 (941042) <slashdot3@@@justconnected...net> on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @05:10PM (#38206912)

    The only instance I can find is when he filed a countersuit regarding a FOIA request trying to get private emails. It wasn't trying to silence dissent, that's just how you dispute a request.

    Any others?

  • by Baloroth (2370816) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @05:12PM (#38206932)
    Poster right below you dropped this [quackwatch.com] link. They did replicate his work, and found no effect on cancer. The man is a quack, a liar, a fraud, probably not even a doctor, and deserves to be sued into oblivion for intimidation.
  • by Idarubicin (579475) <allsquiet@hotm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @05:28PM (#38207098) Journal

    But here's my problem: Fully aside from this guy being a genuine quack, why not just test his therapy fully and completely? Follow his specs and advice to the proverbial "T". Prove him wrong beyond a reasonable doubt and put an end to it.

    I can see at least four reasons.

    First, it's painfully unethical. Since these novel therapies are unlikely to work, encouraging patients to try them in lieu of real, evidence-based medicine is going to kill a lot of people. You cannot get institutional approval to do a trial unless you can demonstrate that your trial therapy is likely to perform as well or better than the existing gold-standard approach. Randomized trials these days don't divide patients into experimental therapy versus placebo; they're divided into experimental therapy versus current therapy.

    Second, there isn't enough of anything to do trials of all the ridiculous therapies; we have enough trouble organizing trials of real, evidence-based therapies that are likely to work. The dollar cost would be exorbitant, but that's actually not the steepest cost or most irreplaceable resource. There are only so many clinicians available - doctors and nurses and radiation therapists and pharmacists - with training relevant to oncology, and they can only do so many hours of work in a day. Wasting their time on futile clinical trials means treating fewer patients with real therapies. Similarly, there are limited numbers of skilled laboratory workers, statisticians, and other scientists. Last, but by no means least, there's a limited number of patients with cancer. Recruiting large numbers of patients into useless trials means a shortage of patients for worthwhile trials.

    Third, the quacks won't be satisfied anyway. One of the important parameters used in modern clinical trials is the establishment of 'futility' criteria. Essentially, they're intermediate checkpoints in the trial where it might be halted early if the therapy's results aren't looking promising. This is done in an effort to reduce wasting time and money on ineffective interventions; for serious illnesses the futility criteria help to limit the number of dead bodies. If one cuts off a futile trial of a quack therapy early in order to save lives, the quack is going to say that The Man shut down his trial.

    Finally, if our response to quackery is to throw funding at it, we encourage more quackery. The persuasive charlatan will always be able to recruit more followers. If this iteration of the therapy is demonstrated useless in a full-blown clinical trial, after this round's money runs out he can just come up with a new variant on the theme, and demand fresh funding for another few years. Lather, rinse, repeat--we create an entire pathological, publicly-funded quack welfare program.

  • by Rary (566291) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @05:37PM (#38207234)

    Other than the countersuit already addressed by the GP, the only thing your stupid LMGTFY link produces is a cease & desist against the makers of a silly satirical music video that used his likeness without his permission. I'm sorry, but a satirical music video is not science, and attempting to suppress it is in no way an attempt to suppress legitimate scientific dissent.

    If you want to counter the science, counter it with more science, not with silly videos or FOIA requests for private emails.

  • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @06:07PM (#38207614) Homepage Journal

    The rate of cancer survival in the medical industry is pretty bad ~ shouldn't the entire industry be criticized more?

    When I was a kid not so long ago, Hodgkin's lymphoma was a death sentence. I remember hearing my parents speak in hushed tones about friends and acquaintances who'd been diagnosed and were trying to get their affairs in order.

    Today, Wikipedia says [wikipedia.org] that "In one recent European trial, the 5-year survival rate for those patients with a favorable prognosis was 98%, while that for patients with worse outlooks was at least 85%."

    I'd call that progress.

  • by gilleain (1310105) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @06:11PM (#38207660)

    Chemical reactions are electrical interactions after all.

    Hmm. Not in any meaningful sense, no.

    I say this as someone who works in a research group on chemoinformatics, involving comparison and analysis of (bio)chemical reactions. For example, here is a drawing (made by graphics software written by me of an atom-atom mapping from my colleague):

    cinnamate beta-D-glucosyltransferase [ebi.ac.uk]

    Cinnamate (in cyan) is being attached to the sugar (purple). This is carried out by an enzyme, with a precise arrangement of amino acids in an active site. How on earth would 'electrical interactions' (in general) affect this reaction - or any other?

  • Re:Storm... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Cyberax (705495) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @06:11PM (#38207662)

    Nope.

    Very few plants have pharmaceutically-active components in sufficiently high concentration to be used for drugs. Or when they do contain them, they are usually contaminated by something else.

    For example, aspirin is contained in willow bark and you can actually use willow bark tea instead of aspirin. However, willow bark also contains substances that actively damage kidneys so you can't drink willow tea often.

  • by crabel (1862874) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @07:13PM (#38208394)
    An analysis of the clinic/company(moneywise!): http://blog.anarchic-teapot.net/2011/11/29/should-you-invest-in-burzynski-stock/ [anarchic-teapot.net] Jennifer Jones "Master List" of all things Burszynski: http://josephinejones.wordpress.com/2011/11/29/burzynski-blogs-my-master-list/ [wordpress.com] List of most blogs about Burzynski: http://josephinejones.wordpress.com/2011/11/25/stanislaw-streisand-and-spartacus/ [wordpress.com] Esowatch Wikiarticle about Burzynski, more thorough than Wikipedia: http://esowatch.com/en/index.php?title=Antineoplaston [esowatch.com]
  • Re:Storm... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Paul Fernhout (109597) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @11:28PM (#38210532) Homepage

    Good question. You would think that greatly reduced costs would produce increased profits in the short term, yes.

    But there is a conflict, because insurance company profits are essentially a percentage of premiums, which will be raised every year to track rising costs (justified to clients and regulators).

    With a single payer government-funded system, there is little incentive to keep costs high (but not none, because probably some aspect of bureaucratic salaries is tied to perceived importance and budget, but nothing like insurance CEO pay).

    Still, I think insurance companies would go for the short term profits if they could, and I expect as more understand this, they will integrate it into wellness programs. For example:
    http://www.drfuhrman.com/library/PCI_angioplasty_article.aspx [drfuhrman.com]
    "The sad thing is surgical interventions and medications are the foundation of modern cardiology and both are relatively ineffective compared to nutritional excellence. My patients routinely reverse their heart disease, and no longer have vulnerable plaque or high blood pressure, so they do not need medical care, hospitals or cardiologists anymore. The problem is that in the real world cardiac patients are not even informed that heart disease is predictably reversed with nutritional excellence. They are not given the opportunity to choose and just corralled into these surgical interventions. Trying to figure out how to pay for ineffective and expensive medicine by politicians will never be a real solution. People need to know they do not have to have heart disease to begin with, and if they get it, aggressive nutrition is the most life-saving intervention. And it is free."

    One other aspect of this is that "health care" has been defined as paying for treatments and drugs when you are sick. That is not health care. That is sick care. Thus, insurance will pay for a $100K heart operation, but not $50K over ten years for organic vegetables to keep you healthy. So, the insurance system is very broken *inherently* in that sense.

    Again, a government program can get around this by integrating things like agricultural subsidies in theory. Unfortunately, US subsidies for agriculture have been captures by unhealthy food makers:
    http://www.seriouseats.com/2007/11/the-subsidized-food-pyramid.html [seriouseats.com]

    What a mess.

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