Coalition of Experts to FDA: Protect Cancer Patients from Burzynski’s False Cures

April 16, 2014

A coalition of physicians, medical officials, scientists, and public policy experts have joined the Center for Inquiry (CFI) in expressing to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) their deep concern over the FDA’s recent decision to allow cancer patients access to unapproved drugs provided by Texas-based doctor Stanislaw Burzynski.

Over the course of four decades, Dr. Burzynski has promoted and administered unproven, almost certainly ineffective, and toxic treatments to cancer patients. He has claimed for more than 36 years that the use of his drugs, “antineoplastons” (ANPs), results in substantially better outcomes than the current standard of evidence-based care for malignant brain tumors. He has even claimed to be able to cure irremovable brainstem tumors – despite the total lack of reliable evidence to support his claims.

Recently, Burzynski’s treatments were examined in depth in the March/April 2014 issue of Skeptical Inquirer, the science magazine published by CFI’s Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. In particular, an essay by Dr. David H. Gorski, MD, PhD, FACS, analyzes the history of Dr. Burzynski’s claims and makes starkly clear that no scientific evidence exists to support his treatments.

Unfortunately, Dr. Burzynski has been allowed to continue to deceive desperate people into thinking they should eschew proven medical treatments in favor of his clinical trials. This has resulted in ongoing, incalculable harm brought upon individuals and families at their most vulnerable moments.

CFI, a nonprofit that advances reason, science, and secular values, concludes in its letter:

“The FDA has an obligation to minimize the damage being done by purveyors of false medical treatments who harm others, such as Dr. Burzynski. That is why we now urge you to move to immediately end Dr. Burzynski’s clinical trials of ANPs, rescind his status as a medical researcher, and, in concert with the HHS Office of Human Research Protection under whose jurisdiction it falls, close his Institutional Review Board permanently. We also urge you to make clear to Dr. Burzynski’s patients, and the general public, that the agency is taking these measures because of the lack of scientifically reliable evidence to support Burzynski’s claims regarding the efficacy of antineoplastons, and his long record of non-compliance with regulations designed to protect human research subjects.”

The letter, which can be downloaded here, has been signed by the following experts:

Stephen Barrett, MD
Co-founder, National Council Against Health Fraud

Robert Blaskiewicz, PhD
Skeptics for the Protection of Cancer Patients

Michael De Dora, MA
Director, Center for Inquiry, Office of Public Policy

Barbara Forrest, PhD
Professor of Philosophy, Southeastern Louisiana University

Kendrick Frazier
Editor, Skeptical Inquirer
Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science

Christopher French, PhD, CPsychol, FBPsS, FRSA
Professor of Psychology, Goldsmiths College, University of London

David Gorski, MD, PhD, FACS
Professor of Surgery, Wayne State University

Harriet Hall, MD
Former U.S. Air Force flight surgeon

Barry Karr
Executive Director, Committee for Skeptical Inquirer

Ronald A. Lindsay, JD, PhD
President and CEO, Center for Inquiry

William M. London, EdD, MPH
Professor of Public Health, California State University, Los Angeles

Eugenie C. Scott, PhD
Chair, Advisory Council National Center for Science Education

Brahm Segal, MD 

Professor of Medicine, University at Buffalo School of Medicine

Chief of Infectious Diseases, Roswell Park Cancer Institute  

Simon Singh, PhD
Fellow, Committee for Skeptical Inquiry