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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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  • Southpark (Score:5, Funny)

    by johnsonbrad1 (1793854) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @03:12PM (#38206194)
    Maybe we should ask Miss Information about this one.
    • by Weezul (52464) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:05PM (#38206854)

      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.

  • Storm... (Score:5, Informative)

    by skinlayers (621258) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @03:12PM (#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 @03:14PM (#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."
    • The Wisdom of Wally [dilbert.com] clearly illustrates the difference between trust and stupidity.

  • by tresho (1000127) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @03:15PM (#38206236)
    in its unproven effectiveness. Plus it's a big red pill, red pills always work better than other colors.
  • by G3ckoG33k (647276) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @03:18PM (#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.

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

    by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @03:23PM (#38206346)

    Ask Steve Jobs how it worked out for him?

  • by ElmoGonzo (627753) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @03:25PM (#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 jfengel (409917)

      Alternative Medicine nuts are usually liberal nuts, not conservative nuts. It's an albatross around the neck of sane liberals trying to make choices based on science rather than delusion.

      The difference, I think, is that the liberals at least try to marginalize their nuts, while conservatives make them the front-runners.

  • by MikeyC01 (231948) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @03:28PM (#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

  • Pisses me off (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Codger (96717) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @03:32PM (#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.

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

      by fermion (181285) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:51PM (#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 eepok (545733) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @03:40PM (#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 @03:42PM (#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.

    • by Idarubicin (579475) <allsquiet@@@hotmail...com> on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:28PM (#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 syousef (465911)

      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.

      Probably because like all charlitans he'll always claim that you haven't followed his specs - that you've misunderstood or misapplied them. Do you think such people are above lying and manipulating? So you've got nothing to gain. It's expensive and a headache and at the end he'll always claim he's right, you're wrong, and you can't follow simple directions so how can you be trusted? Meanwhile he keeps shifting his goalposts to make you look bad.

  • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @03:44PM (#38206622) Homepage Journal

    http://www.quackwatch.com/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/Cancer/burzynski1.html [quackwatch.com]

    Pretty open and shut.

    Burzynski is a fraud.

    I say that as a real researcher (and research director.) The amount of work this man has done is PATHETIC. Even his supposed year-long lab experiment to get his "D.Msc (which didn't exist at the time,) has the shittiest documentation ever.

  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @03:51PM (#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 Kittenman (971447) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:33PM (#38207162)
    We're having Christmas with an old friend of the wife's, who works as a homeopath. I'm not letting her (the homeopath) mix the drinks.
    • by Jason Levine (196982) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @05:04PM (#38207590)

      You should mix the drinks. If she wants Egg Nog (or some other drink), give her a drop of the drink in a glass of water and ask her if it is too strong. (You could always pour half of the glass into another half glass of water and shake it up to strengthen it.)

      Of course, you'll want to drink the "weak" version of the drinks... you know, the ones not strengthened by being diluted in water.

  • I don't understand (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pclminion (145572) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:36PM (#38207214)
    Seriously, why is this even a problem? Why doesn't the FDA just shut him down? He's claiming to be able to cure cancer and is instead bilking people who are dying. Wasn't the whole point of the FDA to eliminate problems like this? Where has the system broken down here exactly?
  • by wisnoskij (1206448) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @04:48PM (#38207368) Homepage

    "That’s because real science thrives on criticism"
    But only real educated criticise. Not criticise coming form people who know nothing about medicine or your proposed treatment.
    I admit I have not read the original article, but unless I am missing my guess this is just some stupid high schooler who is criticising doctors.
    Ignoring that in general the medical community does not agree with this guy I imagine that any medical center would sue when confronted with ignorant bloggers copying and recopying each other and, irregardless to the effectiveness of the procedure, probably changing know facts in the process.

    Criticise is part of science, criticism from your peers, not random people/high schoolers.
    That is like saying that these evolutionary biologists are not being very scientific when they do not respond/sue fundamentalist Christians who badger and criticize them.

  • by phik (2368654) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @05:00PM (#38207558)
    When I lived in South Africa, there was an advanced, modern hospital, the kinds you'd find in the USA not far away from where i lived. But usually people didn't go there until they'd tried the witch doctors and undergo their range of treatments, and by then it would be too late. You know, lemon juice couldn't stop HIV from becoming AIDS, and the hospital couldn't do anything by that time. I thought that was an 'African thing' ...but it's happening in my own backyard (Texas). People really are the same wherever you go, imagine that.
  • You know... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Ed_Pinkley (881113) on Tuesday November 29, 2011 @05:10PM (#38207646)
    You know what they call alternative medicine that works?


    Medicine.

    I'm here all week. Tip your veal, etc.

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