Did Burzynski lie to the BBC?

In this clip from tonight’s BBC Panorama, Dr Burzynski makes some rather bold and misleading claims about antineoplastons. I think he could be lying.

Firstly, Burzynski claims that antineoplastons can cure cancer… but not in everybody. Of course, he has no reliable evidence to support this statement and is not allowed to make such claims in his advertising.

When asked how many patients he has treated and how many have survived, Burzynski claims that he is not able to reveal this information yet because phase II clinical trials were completed just a few months ago.

If this is true, he really ought to update his entries on clinicaltrials.gov. According to that, in over sixty trials, only one has ever been completed (in 2005) and none have been published.

When reporter Richard Bilton explains that the FDA had said that Burzynski is actually allowed to give details of the trials, Burzynski argues that he cannot. When Bilton tries to press the issue, Burzynski replies…

You look like a bright man but you’re asking me the same question again and again. Are you catching Alzheimer’s disease or what?

He then gestures towards the wall at some “publications” and suggests to Bilton that perhaps one day he will get a brain tumour and will want this treatment.

According to Burzynski, people who accuse him of selling false hope are foolish. He asks how would the US government have allowed him to continue for so long without hard evidence?

I would argue that the regulators have been negligent.

Burzynski set up his clinic in 1977. Since then, he has provided no good evidence that antineoplastons work. On the other hand, there has been plenty of evidence that the treatments can have serious side effects. For example, in 1998, the FDA reported that hypernatraemia was noted in 65% of the 404 patients participating in a study and it may have contributed to the deaths of at least seven patients.

When Bilton points out that the drug is not yet approved, Burzynski claims…

The drugs will be approved very soon.

Oh no they won’t.

They aren’t even allowed to use them in “clinical trials” any more.

Have a look at this document, under the section headed Partial Clinical Hold on Phase II and Phase III Clinical Trials. As we’d seen here, there was a serious adverse event last summer. The FDA then stopped allowing Burzynski to enrol children onto the trials. Following an unsatisfactory response to this, the FDA imposed further holds, meaning that no new patients can be enrolled on the clinical trials.

Far from approving the drugs, it looks like the FDA could finally be doing their job.

Further Reading

Should you wish to look into Burzynski in more detail, my Burzynski Master List contains a comprehensive and up to date list of links.

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18 responses to “Did Burzynski lie to the BBC?

  1. I think it’s been a very interesting question for a while: does Burzynski knowingly lie about his treatments, or is he a well-meaning but deluded individual who genuinely believes his treatments help people? I have to confess I’ve not seen any evidence that convinces me that one of those explanations should be preferred to the other.

    Until today.

    That clip, to me, is fascinating, because I think it does answer that question. His claim that the FDA won’t let him reveal his results is just so transparently false it is simply not possible to accept that he could genuinely believe it. No way could that be the result of a genuine misunderstanding. While it’s true that the FDA won’t let him advertise, there is nothing to stop him posting his results onto clinicaltrials.gov or publishing them in a peer-reviewed journal. OK, to publish in a peer-review journal, he has to get past peer review, but there is no such barrier to publishing on clinicaltrials.gov.

    I therefore find it inconceivable that Burzynski could claim that he’s not allowed to publish his results and believe he is being truthful.

    So this video clip is fascinating, as I think it answers the question once and for all about whether Burzynski is well meaning but deluded or actively dishonest.

  2. Pingback: Burzynski blogs: My Master List | Josephine Jones

  3. Completely agree, Adam. Seems to clear up that question fairly effectively.

  4. It also telling that he resorts to insulting the interviewer by suggesting (asking him if) he is suffering from Alzheimer’s. This is a stereotypical quack response to a question, a truthful answer to which would reveal them to be… a quack.

  5. There’s an easy way to tell if Burzynski was lying. Were his lips moving?

    Anyone who tells patient after patient, often up till the day they die, that bad is good, tumour growth means tumour death, that the worse the side-effects are the better the prognosis is, is a pathological liar.

    • “You look like a bright man but you’re asking me the same question again and again. Are you catching Alzheimer’s disease or what?”

      Good grief. If the reporter was on the ball he would have replied:
      “No, No, I am not catching Alzheimer’s, as you quaintly put it. And I am asking you the question again and again simply because you refuse to answer it.”

  6. Pingback: Cleaning up odds and ends about the Burzynski Clinic – Respectful Insolence

  7. He came across as ‘creepy’. A kind of charm approach. His repeat response to questioning was tu quoque contemptuous mirth.

  8. Marc Stephens Is Insane

    At least he didn’t call the BBC reporter a “little man,” a “shit” with a “liitle brain” like he did in this classic 2008 newspaper interview. How someone could say such things to a journalist “on the record” is beyond me, but Stan has never shown much discretion or judgement.

    It starts off nice and friendly, almost like a puff-piece, but then degenerates to THIS:

    “I have the right to do whatever research I want, okay?” he says, followed closely by, “I spent 42 years practicing medicine, doing research, and you are little man for asking such question, okay? Maybe in three years I get Nobel Prize, and you’ll look like a shit, okay, asking me such stupid questions, okay?”

    The Press explains that the reasoning behind the questions is this: Is Burzynski convinced that he’s done everything possible to get antineoplastons federally approved, and thus covered by insurance, thus giving a chance to those dying children whose parents can’t afford the steep payments? But when pressed as to why — even after the prolonged litigation with the FDA — he still hasn’t been able to prove his treatment’s efficacy, he is equally offended.

    “You know why?” he says. “Because I came to this country with $15 in my pocket, okay? Because I didn’t speak English when I came to this country. I learned it by myself. And in order for me to do what I am doing now, I needed to establish a pharmaceutical company. I needed to establish the research institute, okay, from the scratch, okay? And I need to do all of this from my own money, which I am, okay? How many years it would take for you to do it if you come to the country [from] like, say, Afghanistan?”

    The Press also asks why, if one of the biggest barriers to sharing a promising cancer treatment with the rest of the world is his language skills, he hasn’t enlisted the help of English-speaking scientists.

    Burzynski laughs that one off. “Listen your little brain to this thing: I came to this country with $15, okay? How can you enlist somebody, paying him $5 [out of] $15, okay?”

    It’s now over five years later and Stan is no closer to a Nobel Prize than he was back in 2008. I’m not holding my breath.

    This full interview is a “MUST READ” for anyone following the Burzynski saga:

    http://www.houstonpress.com/2009-01-01/news/cancer-doctor-stanislaw-burzynski-sees-himself-as-a-crusading-researcher-not-a-quack/

  9. As much as I hate to admit it, there is a modicum of science here. It’s just that, in Dr. Burzysnki’s hands, unfortunately it’s incredibly sloppy science, Trials are not designed so that they can ever answer the question of whether the real drug, namely sodium phenylbutyrate, is effective, either alone in combination, against cancer, and, if it is, against which cancers. Rather, they appear custom-designed so that Dr. Burzynski can keep administering antineoplastons (which, remember, are nothing more than the metabolic breakdown products of sodium phenylbutyrate) to patients. It’s also incredibly unethical science in that Dr. Burzynski is requiring patients to pay huge amounts of money out-of-pocket for unvalidated combinations of targeted therapies thrown together with (these days, at least) sodium phenylbutyrate and sold as “personalized gene-targeted cancer therapy.” As for his clinical trials, he has been warned by the FDA about lax Institutional Review Board procedures that fail to protect human subjects, fail to guarantee adequate informed consent, do not adequately monitor studies with ongoing reviews, and fail to report conflicts of interest of IRB members. In other words, not only does Dr. Burzynski do “personalized targeted therapy” badly; he does clinical trials badly as well.

  10. There is something distinctly aberrant about Burzynksi’s supporter base, and a cult of personality surrounds the man unlike anything that I have seen in other medical schemes. At the root of cults is a psychological dependence on the leader, and Burzynski’s cult nurtures his patients’ dependence on him by making them fear and distrust modern medicine, stripping away desperately ill patients’ hope in legitimate, tested therapies and substituting them with his “treatment”. Abominable.

  11. Pingback: Science-Based Medicine » BBC Panorama investigates Stanislaw Burzynski

  12. Pingback: BBC Panorama investigates Stanislaw Burzynski | Blog Post Directory

  13. Why am I a troll for questioning what I see and hear? Just because he is attacked by the FDA does not necessarily make him right and that he should adhered to and promoted without any checking. This attitude is no different from the so called Sheeple that unquestionably follow the mainstream media. This is from Dr. Andrew Weil’s website from 2006: “If antineoplaston therapy works, we should have scientific studies showing what percentage of patients treated have survived and for how long, as well as evidence showing how Dr. Burzynski’s method stacks up against conventional cancer treatment. The only study I know that documents how Dr. Burzynski’s patients have fared was done in Canada in 1985. It found that of 36 patients treated, 32 died without showing signs of improvements.” http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/id/QAA400003 Here’s a link showing many references where you can catch up with his work. http://www.burzynskiclinic.com/publications.html (http://www.burzynskiclinic.com/publications.html) You can then do a search in google scholar. The FDA from what I’ve read allows him to work with patients who have not fared too well with chemotherapy which is many of them who are treated for brain stem glioma.

  14. Pingback: Burzynski: Cancer is a Serious Business Part II – COMING July 13th, 2013! — State of Globe

  15. Pingback: “And for my next act…” Dr Buzynski honored by the Catholic Church | lakishajj

  16. There is something distinctly aberrant about Burzynksi’s supporter base, and a cult of personality surrounds the man unlike anything that I have seen in other medical schemes. At the root of cults is a psychological dependence on the leader, and Burzynski’s cult nurtures his patients’ dependence on him by making them fear and distrust modern medicine, stripping away desperately ill patients’ hope in legitimate, tested therapies and substituting them with his “treatment”. Abominable.

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