Monday, November 28, 2011

Streisand Amplifier: Stanislaw Rajmund Burzynski

So, through of Pharyngula, I found out about Dr. Burzynski. Really, in many ways, I wish I hadn't. A quick sum-up of what, precisely, is wrong with Burzynski, courtesy of a 17-year-old who is far more erudite than I:
Burzynski’s published research has been criticised by oncologists and scientists alike. Dr Howard Ozer, director of the Allegheny Cancer Center in Philadelphia, called the research “scientific nonsense”. Independent studies failed to replicate Burzynski’s results, suggesting there may be a strong bias in Burzynski’s research. The FDA have not approved the treatment for any diseases. A 2004 analysis of evidence for a number of alternative treatments for cancer, including Burzynski’s own antineoplaston therapy, said that “The label “unproven” is inappropriate for such therapies; it is time to assert that many alternative cancer therapies have been “disproven.”” In short, it’s quackery – ineffective treatment promoted as effective and sold for a very high price.
To sum up - for thirty-plus years, Burzynski has been giving people with terminal cancer (or their relatives) false hope with his "antineoplaston" (polypeptides extracted from, among other things, urine) therapy. There is no proof that it does anything worthwhile. Despite his claims of its lack of side effects, it has been documented to cause hypernatremia and other negative electrolytic effects. He charges an exorbitant amount of money to enroll his victims in clinical trials - trials only, because he's been barred by the FDA and the courts from selling his therapy as actual treatment. And now he's bilking a family, and a huge number of well-meaning people, out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is reprehensible. This all would be bad enough, but his overzealous PR director has also attempted to employ bullying and threats of legal action to convince bloggers who've written about his questionable practices to take down their articles. What do you suppose that did? Here's a few examples of the heavy handed attempts at legal thuggery: My thoughts:

If Dr. Burzynski had actual, clinically-persuasive evidence to present, he would have done so years ago. If his treatments truly worked to cure otherwise inoperable cancers, I'm certain he could persuade the patients gratefully writing testimonials for him to open their medical records and post them to the 'net, even if there were some concerted conspiracy by oncologists, the FDA, and "Big Pharma" trying to keep his treatment down. He hasn't, so he doesn't. I am open to being proven wrong, but extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and a panacea cure for the many and variegated forms of cancer is an extraordinary claim among extraordinary claims.

With his PR manager's latest antics, Burzynski has invited the Streisand effect to come crashing down on both himself and his abhorrent practice. Tell your friends, repost information about him - sunlight is a lovely disinfectant for this particular strain of bacteria.

It is my considered opinion, after reading a reasonable amount of research on the topic and my own education in the biological sciences, that Dr. Burzynski is at best, delusional, and at worst (and far more likely, given his responses to criticism) a quack and a fraud who earns his money by bilking those whose loved ones (or themselves) are dying of cancer. If the latter, he is scum, and should be prosecuted criminally, rather than simply shut down and allowed to enjoy his ill-gotten gains.

Additional: A Blag Hag takedown. Bravo!

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