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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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  • by andy9o (1235174) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:14PM (#38206226)
    Can dead people be happy?
  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:19PM (#38206306) Journal

    That's not really the issue here. The issue fundamentally isn't whether or not these lying quacks cure anybody or not, but rather whether real scientists are free to judge them by the scientific method. These lying quacks are trying to use the legal system to silence legitimate scientific inquiry into their scam.

    That you're allowed to collect money from gullible morons if you can convince them of your quackery is not questioned, that you can try to hold the scientific community at bay through litigious behavior is.

  • Why don't we (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:23PM (#38206346)

    Ask Steve Jobs how it worked out for him?

  • by ElmoGonzo (627753) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:25PM (#38206366)
    It started with Creation Science and then evolved into Climate Science Denialism and then evolved into Paul Ryan "Economics" so why should medicine be proven to work. I'm allowed to choose facts and if I don't like the ones that are available I can get the Heritage Foundation or one of the debate team to make some up for me. Same goes here.
  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:29PM (#38206436) Journal

    Why would you watch a documentary to evaluate any claim, medical or otherwise? Let's see the peer-reviewed articles in recognized journals detailing out how the experiments were carried out and demonstrating the veracity of the claims.

  • Pisses me off (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Codger (96717) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:32PM (#38206474)

    I'm a cancer survivor. I'm also sympathetic, to a degree, to alternative medicines. But never for cancer! I have known a number of people who tried to treat their cancers through diet, herbs, acupuncture, and so on. Every one of them is dead. Every. Single. One. For cancer, you need the big guns, the heavy chemicals, the knives, the radiation. They leave lots and lots of collateral damage, but at least they have have a chance of keeping you alive for awhile longer.

    So when I see people like Burzynski preying on frightened cancer patients and their families with their snake oil, it makes me see red.

  • by Servaas (1050156) <captivayay@@@hotmail...com> on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:39PM (#38206576)
    How many times do you hear of a single person even having the means to sue a company?
  • by eepok (545733) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:40PM (#38206590) Homepage

    I'm the cornerstone of rationality for a good portion of my friends, so I found it no surprise when one emailed me requesting I watch a documentary called "Burzynski" (http://www.burzynskimovie.com/) and decide if the guy was a quack or really on to something.

    I watched the documentary before researching anything about him and was genuinely intrigued. They present science and statistics in the movie and show how the gov't took some really (in retrospect) bonehead actions to prevent him from providing his therapy.

    Then I looked up actual history and figured out that the guy is a quack. No one can replicate his results and he gets angry when they don't. He claims that all the independent trials are purposely done incorrect to his specifications.

    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.

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:42PM (#38206606) Journal

    Because testing requires manpower and money, both of which, sadly, are in short supply in medical research (or any research, for that matter). Wasting money on the claims of a quack means that some legitimate avenue of research either gets deprived or cut off.

    If you want to pay to have his claims tested, you go right ahead.

  • Re:Oblig. xkcd (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CraftyJack (1031736) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:46PM (#38206636)
    OK, let me reword that a little: "...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 cheekyjohnson why lying is wrong."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:51PM (#38206704)

    "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"

    For some reason this is not the attitude taken towards critics of climate science.

  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:51PM (#38206706)

    ... why aren't the guys who bundled crap mortgages into financial instruments in jail? Or any executives on Wall Street who lied to their clients?

  • by magsol (1406749) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:53PM (#38206720) Homepage Journal
    You talk about cancer as if it were the flu, some common viral infection that most people get every now and then and is a minor annoying blip in one's everyday routine. It's a radically different disease by virtue of the fact that it's your own cells gone rogue. I'm not saying it's beyond the realm of science-based medicine, I'm saying it's not a trivial problem to solve, yet the fact that modern medicine hasn't solved it somehow anoints alternative medicine--which has never empirically shown any effectiveness beyond what you'd see from placebo--as the savior?

    The whole point of this article is that it's fine to try something "different", provided you follow a couple baseline rules: first, you go the peer-review route. You do a double-blind clinical trial, you perform the analysis and see that your method works significantly better than placebo and has improvements over the current state-of-the-art, and then you market it publicly. If (and this is a big "if") Burzynski is going this route, he's doing this step entirely backwards, which is ethically suspect at best. Second, you let the data speak for itself, not the lawyers. You sue people who slander you, not your work. If your work is being called into question, you debate it scientifically, just like in the peer-review process.

    It's the fact that Burzynski is failing hard on these two points that's getting him into trouble, not the supposed shortcomings of the modern medical industry.
  • by DurendalMac (736637) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:55PM (#38206762)
    I agree, but I'd draw the line at calling customers "gullible morons". I'd call them "desperate" more than anything. What's the worst this treatment could do? Kill you? You're dead already. These fraudsters should be exposed as the fraudsters they are, but I can't really blame their customers, because many are willing to try and pay just about anything if there's even a slim, outside chance it could give them even just a bit more time.
  • by Lord Maud'Dib (611577) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:56PM (#38206770)
    Please define cancer. You seem to be implying it is a single disease which can be cured if we find the "right" treatment. It is actually a term used to describe a very large set of diseases which usually have little in common apart from them all involving unregulated cell growth. And yes I am a researcher involved with anticancer drugs.
  • by forkfail (228161) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @05:00PM (#38206806)

    Sorry, but society does have the right to shut down those who do harm by deceit. Your right to free speech does not extend to selling snake oil that does measurable harm.

    As far as kemo and radiation, while hardly perfect, there are measurable and repeatable results confirming that these techniques improve the chances of survival. In this fraudster's case, random trials have shown that there is no such evidence.

  • Re:Either way.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @05:03PM (#38206836) Journal

    And yet, as I said elsewhere, five year survival rates for many cancers have been steadily climbing. Many cancers are very fucking bad and metastasize to all sorts of tissues, making treatment very fucking difficult. That means that the treatments will often be very fucking bad, and will do all sorts of damage to tissues. The alternative is often between living a few years longer with the help of these drugs and all their very fucking bad side-effects, or dying relatively quickly, and often far more awfully fucking bad than they would have if they had taken the treatments.

    My wife survived thyroid cancer and is alive six years later because she had a total thyroidectomy, which is an awful fucking procedure that saw her in the hospital for six days just healing from basically having her neck cut open and large amounts of tissue yanked out just in case the tumor had spread to neighboring lymph glands. She faced radioactive iodine to kill off any potentially cancerous thyroid cells lurking elsewhere. It took her three or four months before she could even drive or go shopping again, because her neck was literally stapled together. She has to take synthetic thyroid hormone until the day she dies, and there's still no guarantee, even though she's made it over five years, that she might not get stricken again.

    Cancer is fucking awful pal. So don't give this anti-pharmaceutical schizoid conspiracy theory bullshit.

  • Re:Storm... (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @05:07PM (#38206868)

    I'm not backing this research, but many drugs are based natural products. They are modified for intellectual property not for efficacy.

    What company is going to advertise drinking 8 cups of water a day to prevent cancer? No major pharmaceutical. There's no money for the studies either.

  • Re:Oblig. xkcd (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Elder Entropist (788485) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @05:22PM (#38207038)

    What argument could you possibly make that lying is right?

    "Does this dress make me look fat?"

  • by PCM2 (4486) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @05:28PM (#38207094) Homepage

    What's the worst this treatment could do? Kill you?

    No, the worst would be that this quackery robs you of all the money you could have spent on legitimate medical treatment. Hell, you could have spent the cash on pints of ice cream and raised your quality of life for your last couple of years. Bilking people out of their savings because they're terrified that they're going to die is pretty fucking low.

  • by kikito (971480) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @05:29PM (#38207104) Homepage

    "Why would big pharma want cancer cured? Oh, yeah, I remember now - so they can stop selling all of those expensive cancer drugs."

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0yXn9XA-5c [youtube.com]

    Ribbit.

  • by Nimey (114278) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @05:32PM (#38207154) Homepage Journal

    Not to mention the ethical problems with subjecting people to this stuff.

  • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @05:34PM (#38207184) Homepage

    Burzynski wasn't just threatening to sue. They sent one blogger a photo of his house saying we know where you live. And they threatened the other blogger's family.

    That sounds like these bloggers have grounds to sue the pants off the clinic and possibly file criminal charges.

  • Re:Pisses me off (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fermion (181285) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @05:51PM (#38207416) Homepage Journal
    It is well known that cancer tends to kill patients. As far as I know even treatments prescribed by you MD does assert to cure cancer, but is only measured in 5 year survival rates, and if a treatment can get an extra few people out of a hundred to live past five years it is considered a success. There may be some trickery here because people who aggressive treat cancer might also be the ones that tend to go to doctors earlier than those who would tend to not use aggressive treatments. In any case, it is clear that many drug therapies do have medical benifit and in many cases the life savings that are expended to gain the years is worth while.

    Let me just say this. For years men were put through agony to 'cure' prostrate cancer until common sense was able to overcome the drug dealer industrial complex and men were told the truth, that prostate cancer was slow growing enough that in men the benefit of treating the cancer was primarily to enrich the drug and insurance companies, while causing unneceasry pain and risk to the male involved.

    For years women were told to undergo painful mammograms every year after 40. Now it is every year or two, and for women at low risk the consensus seems to be after 50. Again, there is profit to many people to maximize the diagnosis and testing. False negatives are 20%, which means the cancer is not found, as well as false positives which require painful procedures and over diagnosis. Scientific studies indicate that little loss of effectiveness will occur if mamaograms are started at 50 for low risk groups, yet the loss of money to the insurance companies and drug cartels are so great the science it overwhelmed by the march to profits.

    Then we have Avastin, a drug that actually can kill the patient without provided any proven benefit for those diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. Are the doctors following the science? There is evidence to suggest that it will still be prescribed even though the patient might have an heart attack, but at least if that happens before the patient dies of breast cancer it will not effect the five year survival rate. In fact, Roche is so determined to keep the profits of this killer drug rolling that it is said that they are part of a lobby to get congress to limit the FDA ability to protect US patients from killer drugs such as these. For $100,000 a year paid by scared patients who are looking for any hope, even a drug that will kill them, it is a good bussines model.

    I am all for fast track and therapies that can help cancer patients. I can tolerate treatments such as mammograms and quack therapies that are costl but do not real harm and may make the patient happy. What I can't deal with are therapies that are known to kill the patient but are still allowed on the market.

  • by willaien (2494962) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @05:56PM (#38207498)
    A company that made an actual cure to cancer could print their own money off of the patent. Not to mention having humongous clout and popularity due to that revolutionary breakthrough.
  • by Llyr (561935) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @05:57PM (#38207506)
    "big pharma" isn't a monolith, it includes multiple competing companies. Any of whom would be happy to buy up a likely cure and make large amounts of money from it. Over the patent life of a drug, you shoud be able to make much more money from a cure than an ongoing treatment, because you can charge a lot more for it and you get all of it upfront.

    And then, once they're cured of the fatal disease, you can still sell them all of your other drugs!

  • by bussdriver (620565) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @06:20PM (#38207768)

    It is on netflix now. The name of the documentary on him is called "Burzynski."

    Extremely interesting and fits well within the known corruption. Especially how the FDA is allowing clinical trials and previously allowed other trials and how officials mess things up on purpose, etc. Fits right into the patterns I've seen locally (read about state/nationally.) Could be this is merely the way they present it; mixing in truth with the lies or it may just be true. This guy has been on trial multiple times and the gov lost. You'd think they could do a better job at discrediting him if it was so simple and they'd not have their hands into it if they think he is an open/shut fraud case. Burzynski could be a total prick, who knows. But its not open and shut. I would expect his legal action to come from 1) his lawyers he's had budgeted for decades need something to do, 2) his more favorable status these days is under jeopardy by such critics (especially the ones he doesn't cure.)

    His cancer cure isn't 100% (none are) and it isn't a cure - he doesn't claim it is - it just performs well enough to be out there with other more expensive drugs out there. I know, my mother had cancer; the costs even with insurance were crazy PLUS they didn't tell her until afterwards the drugs that made it hell only boosted her odds of recovery by 8%!! She has some permanent damage from those also toxic drugs.

    HUGE amounts of money are involved and I'm not convinced many parties have any intention of curing anything more than necessary. This guy could be well intentioned or not; he doesn't appear to have been getting rich from it. True or not, the reality is that a real cure without mega profit would be suppressed if it could be (See Obi Wan in the british film "The Man in the White Suit" for some of the issues, I remember it because its the only film to touch of them I've seen; also entertaining is how they portray a genius science guy .)

    I'm highly skeptical of the corrupt US health cartel; even when approved and "legit" we end up with disasters later on, then lawsuits, then we find out Merck was suppressing data and knew it was bad, etc. Then they sell the drugs to the 3rd world until caught again... Don't forget the cheap testing they do on unknowing poor people in Africa...

    We should be spending more time on Faith Healers...

  • Re:Storm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by brantondaveperson (1023687) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @06:22PM (#38207786) Homepage

    Speaking as a person who (like many who others read /.) has lost someone close through cancer, I find the suggestion that drinking '8 cups of water' a day will prevent it highly offensive.

    In addition, the notion that '8 cups of water a day' is of therapeutic benefit to any extent is also completely bunk.

  • Re:Storm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by superdave80 (1226592) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @06:31PM (#38207896)
    Well, that's probably because the number of people that take aspirin dwarfs the number of people that drink willow tea...
  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @06:31PM (#38207900) Journal

    "Cure for cancer" as a general concept really annoys me, because cancer isn't a disease/disorder singular, but rather a large number of different diseases/disorders with certain common traits that lump them together, but for which therapies can be wildly different.

  • by RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) <taiki AT cox DOT net> on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @06:33PM (#38207924)

    it's unknown whether or not his delaying the surgery lead to his death.

    It's not a matter of too soon, it's a matter of we don't know what ultimately did him in. We don't know if it metastasized or if something else was going on.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @07:20PM (#38208494)

    He's cured people with incurable cancer. That's a fact - and a well documented one. And the FDA has taken unprecedented steps to shut him down. Also a fact.

    You morons read a biased article like this and you form a half-assed opinion. When someone has a partial cure (ie. not 100% effective) for something that, until now, had NO cure and was 100% fatal, then there's something to it. Do the math.

  • Re:Storm... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by c6gunner (950153) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @09:56PM (#38209978)

    I can see where you get your monicker.

    The reason we prefer those eeevil, sterile, robotically produced, Big Pharma, toxic pills is because:

    1. We can control for purity. You know you're getting the good stuff without any contaminants.
    2. We can control for dosage. You know you're not getting too little to do any good, or overdosing yourself into a coma.

    You don't get any of that with the "natural" products. It's blind guesswork. But hey, if you want to be stupid and treat your life like one giant crap-shoot, feel free. I just wish natural-selection wasn't such a slow process.

  • Re:Storm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cyberax (705495) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @11:05PM (#38210388)

    The problem is, toxicity of aspirin in tablet form is NOT greater. It's actually far smaller.

    It's _easier_ to overdose on tablet aspirin since it's sold in a such convenient tablet form. However, if you do use aspirin sanely you basically have no chance to get poisoned even if you do use it regularly (modulo personal adverse drug reactions).

    However, if you do drink willow bark tea regularly in therapeutic concentration quantities you WILL get kidney failure eventually (which generally is not a problem because stomach problems will get to you first).

  • Re:Storm... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by c6gunner (950153) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @12:21AM (#38210858)

    That would explain why my neurologist (and many of his peers, according to him) refuse to prescribe generic seizure medication, as many of us will seize on generics. "Sort of a crapshoot", he told me.

    Yeah, I looked it up, and you're right: thousands of years of research and experience have clearly shown that anecdotes are the best method for judging the efficacy of medication. Tomorrow I'll go visit a witch doctor to ask if he perform recto-cranial extractions. I'll let you know how it goes.

  • Re:Southpark (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lord Kano (13027) on Wednesday November 30, 2011 @02:11AM (#38211274) Homepage Journal

    You are confusing the actual meaning of homeopathy with the commonly used meaning.

    True homeopathy is bunk. You dilute something with water to make it more effective and the more times you dilute it, the more powerful the effect? It's nonsensical.

    In this context, homeopathic is a substitute for "naturally occurring substances used to treat symptoms". The product in your link includes 13.3mg of a zinc compound that has been shown to reduce the duration of the common cold. See here. [nih.gov] The same study showed that people who regularly took Zinc Gluconate Glycine had fewer colds per year. It's not a scam, it's real data confirmed by the NIH.

    13.3mg in each lozenge is more than you'd get in an Olympic sized swimming pool of a true homeopathic remedy.

    There is a world of difference between the two. One is rot, gibberish and criminally fraudulent nincompoopery. The other is a scientifically proven remedy that happens to use pharmacologically active substances that happen to not be covered by billion dollar patents. That branch of medicine is just as valid as any other.

    LK

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