Burzynski fined by Texas Medical Board

Stanislaw Burzynski, a medical doctor who runs his own cancer treatment clinic using alternative methods unsupported by evidence, has had his licence put under threat of revocation, will be monitored for all activity, and fined more than US$380,000 by the Texas Medical Board.

Burzynski is famous in pseudomedicine circles for the activities of the Burzynski Clinic in Texas. Founded in 1976, the clinic offers unproven cancer treatment. It is best known for “antineoplaston therapy”, a chemotherapy using compounds it calls antineoplastons, devised by Burzynski in the 1970s. There is no accepted scientific evidence of benefit from antineoplaston combinations for various diseases.

The clinic has been the focus of criticism primarily due to the way its antineoplaston therapy is promoted, the costs for people with cancer participating in ‘trials’ of antineoplastons, problems with the way these trials are run, and legal cases brought as a result of the sale of the therapy without state board approval.

Perhaps most important is the fact that many of his patients forego accepted and effective medical treatments in favour of his sham cures, often with the most serious results.

Wikipedia says that Burzynski “has violated research standards according to FDA inspectors while running a never-ending trial without solid results. He was accused of charging patients exorbitant case management fees and selling them drugs at high costs from his own pharmacy.”

According to the American Cancer Society, “Treatment can cost from US$7000 to $9500 per month or more, depending on the type of treatment, number of consultations, and the need for surgery to implant a catheter for drug delivery. Available information suggests that health insurance plans often do not reimburse costs linked to this treatment.”

The Final Order of the Board lists the following rulings:
* Revocation of licence, though this has been stayed assuming he follows the rest of the requirements.
* The Burzynski clinic’s billing practices will be monitored and the records reviewed.
* Burzynski must complete a Physicians Ethics program and undergo continuing education to obtain credits of completion in several topics of medical research.
* Informed consent forms must be submitted to the Board for review to demonstrate they comply with rules and laws. Each patient must now get these new forms and sign them before treatment.
* Ownership interest disclosure (that he owns the pharmacy he is making patients use) must be submitted to the Board for review and all patients must be informed.
* He must pass a Medical Jurisprudence Exam.
* He must pay a US$360,000 penalty based on the incidents shown to have occurred with patience. (The false billing constituted a major portion of the assessment.) And, he must pay restitution of US$20,125 to the American Cancer Society.

Any violation of the terms, conditions, or requirements of the Order by Burzynski will constitute “unprofessional conduct likely to deceive or defraud the public, or to injure the public, and shall constitute a basis for disciplinary action”.

Sharon Hill of Doubtful News says the requirements for schooling, at least, are “humiliating … for a 74-year-old guy who has gotten away with freedom in his practice for years. He’s already claimed to have had heart problems. So, this may be a devastating ruling. Though, others say it does not go far enough, as the clinic remains open and available to treat patients.”

She adds that, while the ruling does not throw Burzynski in jail, “it does make the rest of his life (he’s not young) rather difficult. So difficult, that I wonder if he will retire.”

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