DVD Review: Burzynski, the Movie (DVD)

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Author: Eric Merola
Publisher: Eric Merola
Book Publication: 2010

Burzynski, the Movie, a powerful documentary written, produced, and directed by Eric Merola, chronicles Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski’s 14-year fight to protect his patients’ access to antineoplaston therapy. Antineoplastons are peptides in blood and urine that target almost 100 specific oncogenes (linked to cancer promotion) and tumour suppressor genes (inhibit cancer). The peptides are abundant in healthy, cancer-free people but absent in those with cancer. Dr. Burzynski discovered the peptides while working on his PhD in biochemistry, after obtaining his medical degree. In 1977, he began treating cancer patients with antineoplaston injections as an experimental treatment at his Texas clinic, a practice that was legal under state law at the time.

While antineoplaston therapy is not a one-hundred-percent-miracle cure, Merola establishes its superiority to conventional therapy, particularly in treating glioma and other brain cancers, early in the film. He draws on patient and family interviews, patient records, testimony at Congressional subcommittee hearings, and published clinical trials to show that antineoplaston therapy is safer and more effective than conventional treatments. As Dr. Burzynski says in the film, “We can help, not everybody, but some of these patients.” He and his staff are continually working to synthesize more effective antineoplastons that are easier to administer. Antineoplaston therapy, however, is not the main focus of this film. Rather, Burzynski, the Movie documents government agencies’ attempt to discredit Dr. Burzynski, shut down his clinic, and take control of the therapy.

Every two years from 1984 until 1992, the Texas Medical Board investigated Dr. Burzynski – even though no patients had complained about their treatment. In 1986, Dr. Burzynski gave the Board patient records for 40 successful cases (twice the number requested) involving various cancers. The Board told him that they’d review the cases; and if all was well, they’d leave him in peace. Two years later, the Board threatened to revoke Dr. Burzynski’s license, claiming that he had violated a law. The Board amended their complaint in 1990, and for a second time in 1992. In 1993, shortly after 60 Burzynski patients petitioned the Board to stop harassing their doctor, Dr. Burzynski found himself on trial. The judge ruled in Dr. Burzynski’s favour because the Board had not shown that antineoplastons were harmful or ineffective “nor did it introduce any competent or substantial evidence…that antineoplastons are not generally recognized by experts qualified by scientific training or experience to evaluate [them].”

Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was also trying to close the Burzynski Clinic. From 1985 until 1995, the federal agency orchestrated a propaganda campaign to discredit the therapy, raided the clinic three times, and seized patient records and research files. It also convened at least four grand jury investigations from 1985 to 1995, without resulting in a trial. Patients petitioned Congress members to investigate the FDA’s persecution of their doctor. The documentary’s most passionate scenes come from 1995 Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Hearing video clips. Within days after that hearing, the FDA charged Dr. Burzynski with 75 counts of violating federal law and fraud. The doctor faced 290 years in federal prison and $18.5 million in fines. Congressional intervention allowed Dr. Burzynski to continue treating his patients. Congress also pressured the FDA to accept his patients in FDA-approved Phase II clinical trials.

Apparently, the FDA has a long-standing prejudice against research performed by individual investigators, according to information uncovered by Merola. The FDA gives preference to pharmaceutical firms. Ironically, Dr. Burzynski was trying to find a pharmaceutical company to work with him, but FDA scared potential partners off with veiled ‘warnings’ that Merola quotes. When a company finally agreed to work with Dr. Burzynski, the company betrayed him by co-opting an independent researcher that he had hired. Together, along with the U.S. National Cancer Institute, the company and independent researcher filed patents for antineoplastons as a cancer treatment even though Dr. Burzynski already held patents on the peptides.

Burzynski, the Movie has been criticized for not giving the opposition a “voice.” That voice would not change the facts: eight years of investigation by the Texas Medical Board before a judge found in Dr. Burzynski’s favour; at least four grand jury investigations resulting in no trials; acquittal of all federal charges; and the passionate, vocal defense by his patients and attorney that convinced federal congressmen to challenge the FDA.

People who believe that the U.S. FDA and other government agencies have patients’ best interests in mind need to see this film. Those who wonder why the decades-long “War on Cancer” has gained so little ground also need to watch it. Clips from Burzynski, the Movie are available at YouTube.com, but you can buy your own copy of this important film for the very reasonable price of $20 at www.burzynskimovie.com

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