The Burzynski Millions

burzynski3Dr Stanislaw R. Burzynski presents himself as a lone maverick doctor, struggling against the vested interests and great wealth of the medical profession. He claims to have found a safe and effective form of cancer treatment that can save children with the deadliest forms of cancer. But he claims the medical authorities and “Cancer Industry” do not want you to know this and will try anything to shut him down. They have their millions to protect.

Burzynski came to America from Poland “with twenty dollars in his pocket, a theory in his head, and an indefatigable attitude that shown in his smile.” He had an idea, that a chemical extracted from urine, could cure cancer. From that humble beginning, he has fought the authorities to build the clinic and laboratories needed to give life to children where all others are happy to see them die rather than lose their profits.

And so, when parents of desperately ill children from around the world hear about the Burzynski Clinic, they will have to find the money themselves. The UK’s NHS will not fund it, nor will health insurers. But his experimental protocols are not cheap and the many months of treatment will require hundreds of thousands of dollars. The only way for most parents to be able to afford to clutch at this straw is through massive fund raising appeals and the kind hearts of celebrities who help out. Newspapers and TV leap on the story of the beautiful and dying children being helped by well known faces such as Peter Kay, Radiohead, Badly Drawn Boy and Cheryl Cole.

In order to struggle on with his pioneering work, he asks you to donate and send him personal cheques.

There is, of course, another side.

Burzynski’s critics argue that in the 30 years he has been researching his antineoplaston therapies, he has failed to publish any convincing data. He has been running so-called trials for decades and yet there are no peer-reviewed articles that would allow others to objectively assess his results. He relies on testimonials and advertising to appeal directly to patients whereas such cases should normally be referred.

Stanislaw Burzynski has also been accused of massively overcharging his clients for their treatment, for not disclosing his ownership relationship with a pharmacy that sells his products, and treating patients ‘like cash machines’. His financial management of his Research Institute has been described as rendering the investment” “worthless” as cash is written off and in so doing so, ‘shafting his investors’.

He is currently under investigation by the Texas Medical Board for “failure to practice medicine in an acceptable professional manner”, negligence, lack of professional diligence, failure to disclose to patients the nature of their treatments, failure to obtain informed consent, providing medically unnecessary services to a patient and behaving in “unprofessional or dishonorable conduct that is likely to deceive or defraud the public or injure the public”.

His treatments, far from being an alternative to chemotherapy are just a mish-mash of conventional chemo given in highly unconventional ways and orphaned drugs with no good evidence behind them. He also sells a bizarre range of anti-aging creams and vitamin food supplements.

And when Burzynski is criticised he hires goons to try to shut people up.

In the context of this gulf between the two views of Dr Stanislaw Burzynski, last night I tweeted a couple of Google Earth images of where Dr Burzynski lives. This was bound to be controversial and, no doubt, this post will attract some criticism. Indeed, what I am about to do is conduct an ad hominem argument. But I shall explore this later.

So, here are the pictures.



Dr Burzynski is obviously not financially struggling. This is a 10 acre, 15 thousand square foot, $6 million dollar residence with 15 bathrooms, saunas and swimming pools.

No matter which version of the truth you wish to believe, I think it is worth understanding that having come to America with $20, Dr Burzynski has done very well for himself with his 30-year-old, unproven, urine-derived cancer therapy, and that the fund-raising efforts being conducted by all those celebrities and media outlets are, at least in part, going to help pay for someone to polish those foot-high gold initials on Dr Burzynski’s gate next to the guard house to his residence.

Of course, I immediately saw some criticism for posting what might be seen as private and personal information and for me being hypocritical.

Indeed, most of the time I am very critical of people who use ad hominem attacks. That is, when the argument resort to attacking the personal characteristics of a person rather than the science and evidence. It is a common tactic amongst homeopaths and other quacks to respond to criticisms of the science with accusation that the critic is a shill, for example. However, when the question is about the personal characteristics, morals and motives of an individual then discussing the individual is not a fallacy. Understanding that Burzynski is a very wealthy man is an important factor in understanding what is going on since he is directly accused of overcharging and financially exploiting the desperation of families hit with cancer.

Burzynski charges his patients to take part in his own clinical trials. He is only allowed to treat patients with antineoplastons from within a trial. And unlike participants in other medical trials, Burzynski charges them a huge amount of money – hundreds of thousands. Thus, if Burzynksi’s treatments are found to work, then the financial risk of that investigation is being taken by his patients – people with cancer. If the trials are not positive, then Burzynski will still have gained financially and his patients will have lost both their lives and their money. It would look as if, he is not taking any risk at all in these trials. That is a unique position to be in. His patients are carrying all the risks associated with his research. And it is worth noting again, that when people sign up to trials, they expect their participation to benefit humanity – and that can only be done by publication of results. Thus, a failure to publish is a moral outrage.

His current and future patients should understand these issues and come to their own conclusions.

It has also been suggested that posting such pictures is somehow ‘intimidatory’.

Indeed, when 17 year old blogger Rhys Morgan first posted about Burzynski last year, the hired gangster, Marc Stephens told Rhys to take down his blog posts and sent him pictures of his house. Am I doing the same thing?

Context is everything. Stephens sent pictures to Rhys as a threatening manoeuvre. I am not threatening Burzynski. I am not sending him the message, “I know where you live”. I am providing evidence of the vast amount of money accumulated through the treatment of people with cancer and to show that this is not the story of the wealth of vested interests against a lone struggling researcher. I am not prone to do such things – but I think we are dealing with quite an exceptional case where Burzynski himself has created the framework of the argument about how he is being attacked by vested interests worth millions.

Indeed, even if Burzynski’s cures could be shown to be effective, such accumulation of wealth would have to raise eyebrows. Why is Burzynski not doing everything in his power to ensure that doctor’s world wide are using his approach? Why is he not getting help from other doctors and laboratories to gain the benefits of scale in producing his treatments. Why is he keeping his data, results and methods all to himself?

I think there are only a few credible answers to these questions and I don’t think they need spelling out.

42 Comments on The Burzynski Millions

    • Andrew Witty’s house looks positively modest by CEO standards: less than 0.6 acres, probably worth not much more than $3 million, only 2400 square feet.

  1. Someone on another board suggested “Count Quackula”.

    (Do you have the cereal Count Chocula in the UK? If not, the pun was probably lost…)

  2. The man is obviously living in abject poverty. The first picture clearly shows a keypad for gate entry – any self-respecting millionaire would have fully automated remote actuated gates and that only because they can’t afford the basics like a uniformed gate guardian.

  3. Think this is not a good direction to be going in, Andy – stick to the science. There is a reason why we slate alt med for resorting to ad hom, and it works both ways.

    I know what point you’re trying to make, but please stick to the high road in future?

    • I really don’t think that comment was called for, Andy puts a lot of hard work into researching his blog and this makes a very good point.It is outrageous that this man, Burzinski, is getting away with depriving people of both their lives and money, and making a very nice living from it. I also think it a shame that more people do not chip in with their support. Andy, I really appreciate getting your emails, and it is a great relief that somebody is trying to right a very great wrong. Go, Andy, Go!

      • Eh? Because Andy’s a decent bloke who puts a lot of effort in, he shouldn’t be called out when he cocks up? Sorry, don’t buy that at all.

        The important point is what’s being charged, and what for. What he spends his money on is pretty much irrelevant.

        Also, I fear Andy posting pictures of his house will be used as an excuse when someone does it with less honourable intentions.

      • elder_pegasus

        I do appreciate the dilemma here and this post was not made without thought.

        The question of Burzynski’s science has been dealt with by many good bloggers, most noticably orac, comprehensively. And without any need of resorting to ad hominem to demolish his claims.

        However, Burzynski. most notably through the movie about him, frames the issues not around science, but around power, money and politics.

        So, this post addresses directly the question of power here. And, after viewing where he lives, I came to the conclusions that words themselves could not come close to an actual picture – the old cliche, I’m afraid.

        So, it is not that I am criticising for what he spends his money on – (the grounds actually look fabulous) – but the fact that he has amassed an extraordinary wealth from the promotion of an unproven cure to desperately sick people. That poses very big moral questions for Burzynski.

        And, yes the trolls and haters out there crow about hypocrisy and so on. But, as I point out, the context of Burzynski’s goons using pictures of Rhys Morgan’s house are entirely different. Tha twas an act of intimidation done in order to protect Burzynski’s millions. I feel confident that thinking people see this.

        And I have not published Burzynski’s address – but it is a matter of public record.

  4. Andy:

    I know you’ve not just posted this on a whim. Easiest to copy paste what I’ve just posted on BSF:

    As I say though, there’s no benefit to him posting them (the guy being loaded is moot – either the treatment works, and he can charge, or it doesn’t and he shouldn’t; even if you care he’s loaded, better ways to show it), and several downsides:

    A) this will probably get used to excuse the next dick move from one of his supporters. “he did it first!”
    B) as andy admits, it’s an ad hom.
    C) it’s using a non-threatening version of a tactic that we’ve criticised others for.
    D) it gives the wrong impression – the target of this stuff must be fence sitters, who may well just see this as a personal thing – “don’t get treated by him, he’s rich” is not the take home message to put out there.
    E) we can see how andy got to the blog post, but to someone arriving on that page as their first contact with him or this subject is going to think “internet stalker”.

    • As far as fence-sitters go, I do at least have the hope that they read Andy’s measured words and understand that this is less about

      “Don’t get treated by him, he’s rich! (and I’m jealous)”

      but more about

      “He’s railing against vested interests and is heralding himself as the suppressed maverick, all the while charging people for trials (unheard of, actually!), and overcharging them at that. Think of his treatments what you will, but at least understand that he’s no self-sacrificing saint.”

      A man can dream…

  5. As a cancer survivor myself, I can say that quacks like Burzynski really, REALLY piss me off. Because he is playing with desperate (and sometimes gullible) people’s lives here. And, if you’re capable of an iota of critical thinking you will be well aware that his arguments are absolutely idiotic.

    Cure cancer? There is no single “cure” for cancer because there are 100’s (possibly thousands?) of different types of the disease; some treatable, some moderately treatable, and some are a death sentence. When I undertook chemotherapy for my cancer, no two people in the entire cancer clinic were on the same drug regimen.

    And I love the conspiracy theory argument; the medical cancer “industry” wants you to stay sick so they can profit off you. If this were true…

    1) This would pit the medical industry directly against the insurance companies and governments who pay for the treatment; the average citizen cannot foot the bill for intensive treatment. I highly doubt either of these would sit idly by while their dwindling treasuries were needlessly pilfered.

    2) Thousands upon thousands of people sworn to maintain the health of their patients would have keep their mouths shut, even as friends, family, and loved ones fell sick (the numbers show about 1 in 3 people will develop some form of cancer in their lifetimes). That’s absolutely inconceivable.


  6. I think that the heart of this matter lies within who controls the free will of people.

    For instance, If I wish to use a product for my own health issues, why should a government stand in my way? For instance, if I wish to use medical marijuana for purely medical reasons, I have that right and no person should be allowed to stop me if I am not harming anyone else (i.e. driving under the influence).

    It is my opinion that much of homeopathy is bogus but I wouldn’t stand in someone’s way. On the other hand, much of AMA medicine is archaic and barbaric, yet again, I wouldn’t stand in someone’s way. Western medicine is great for patching you up if your get messed up in a car accident but woefully inadequate in preventing and treating most medical conditions. Usually, drugs are prescribed and other drugs prescribed to treat the effects of the first drug culminating in a massive drug cocktail. If a doctor tells you that is the best or only treatment and you choose to go that route, more power to you. Who gets to dictate those choices?

    If a person doesn’t believe that big, big money is at the bottom of modern western medicine, than that person’s head is deeply in the sand. Simply compare this to the 2012 presidential elections where big, big money is a stake for the opposing camps, not primarily on surface political ideologies.

    My opinion is that Burzinski may or may not be a “quack” but should be left to offer treatments to anyone who wishes to take his medicine just like people are given the choices to take other medicines. It is the free will that is at the heart of this matter.

    This site is pretty clearly the skeptic choir preaching to itself, so I’ll certainly expect comments on this post to automatically debunk anything that doesn’t criticize Burzinski. Bear in mind that I too am a skeptic and am not a believer or a disbeliever of either Burzinski or the FDA/AMA sides. What I’m interested in is what motivates people to do what they do. Burzinski may be in it only for the money or only to help people or a combination, but who is qualified to say? Likewise, the drug companies may be in it only for the money too, after all, there is BIG money here. (I’m skeptical that any cure for cancer will ever bell “allowed” to emerge, considering the money machine behind research and drugs.)

    My opinion is that Burzinski may or may not be a “quack” but I should have the right to the treatment for my cancer that I choose.

    • It’s not quite a simple as that though is it? It depends if you feel you have any moral obligations to others around you.

      If you saw a small child step out into the road and you spot a truck that the child had not, would you feel comfortable to leave that they have made their own choices and are free to step into the road whenever they liked? Or would you shout at them?

      And if you saw a friend eschew proven cancer treatments for homeopathy, would you too just let them make their own choices or would you feel any need to express a concern?

      We have free will, but we also have different perspectives, and a moral society will ensure that people who persuade others to make bad choices are challenged.

      • The child truck scenario is spurious because EVERYONE knows that the truck will certainly kill the child for no purpose. Not everyone knows what is the best treatment for cancer.

        My sister was diagnosed for stage 0 breast cancer last September. After researching her options and praying about it, she opted for a mastectomy. My opinions were:

        1. Stage 0 is not the point to choose mastectomy and the doctors are butchers for not giving her better counsel.
        2. Prayer is a waste of time and energy.

        But it’s her body and life to choose what to do, i just gave her my opinions when she asked and supported her in her decisions.

        As expected, your comments show that, rather than really being a true skeptic, you are merely skeptical of that which differs from your opinion, the opinion of others that you have agreed to.

        I just don’t agree with either Burzinski or the AMA/FDA with respect for what works and what doesn’t. I’m simply raising the issue of freedom to choose one’s own treatment.

      • I believe that one factor in people’s beliefs in alternative medicines is an uncomfortableness with uncertainty and an intollerance of risk. Your response fits in with this.

        Your dismissal of my child/truck scenario does not bear scrutiny. Let’s alter it slightly. Now imagine a fork in the road just before where we are standing. The truck only has a 50/50 chance of coming our way and killing the child. Would you not intervene now and respect the choice’ because there is no longer certainty?

        I would guess you would still attempt to intervene.

        If so, at what level of risk would you leave the child to its own chances? My guess is that any reasonable person would intervene even of there was a small risk of the child being wrong since the consequences are so catastrophic.

        So, why should I not intervene with people who appear to be making terrible and choices based on misinformation?

        Of course they are free to make their choices – on that we can agree – your beef appears to be more with people who are concerned that they are being misled.

  7. “But I am, after all, on a website populated by people who seem to have already decided what is good medicine and what is not, so I’ll leave you with wishes for a good life and a request to not mess with mine!”
    This is a very good point.
    I find it also interesting that most of the skeptics shouting against alternative medicine have no medical qualifications, no clinical experience but are very happy to tell medical doctors and sometime professors that they are wrong in using alternative medicine.
    That the skeptics have an opinion, and that they criticise the excesses of alternative medicine is a good thing, but when they become almost evangelical about their skepticism, and try to convince everybody that they are wrong, instead of respecting their freedom of choice, I do not like it.
    As far as Burzinsky is concerned, his methods look suspicious to me, but there are in place laws and a system to monitor such activities,
    Let them do their job

    • “ I find it also interesting that most of the skeptics shouting against alternative medicine have no medical qualifications, no clinical experience but are very happy to tell medical doctors and sometime professors that they are wrong in using alternative medicine.”

      Agree. I think readers of this blog have the right to know what the medical qualifications of Mr. Lewis are.Is he not also addressing his comments to people who have (severe) medical complaints?.

      • I am not a driving instructor and I have never designed a motor vehicle, but I am quite capable of telling you that driving on the right in the UK is dangerous, stupid and likely to lead to prosecution if death does not intervene.

      • BSM: You’re one of these Big Driver fascists who want to deprive me of my right to choose the natural way and drive on whatever side of the road feels right to me. I know what’s best for me and my family and I bet you can’t show me one of your ‘gold-standard’ RCTs that shows me I’m wrong.

        We’re not fools – do you really expect us to believe you’re not in the pay of Big Instructor? Your initials are a complete give away.

      • Damn, I’ve hidden behind those initials in plain view for nearly 10 years.

        To shift analogies, it is boring and tedious how the defenders of quackery insist, time and again, on playing the man not the ball. I suspect it all comes down to a worldview that is completely beholden to authority figures. And the irony is lost on them that they think parroting the canards passed to them by those figures represents independent thinking. As has been pointed out many times, new SCAM is just old paternalism wrapped around an unappetising mix of bullshit and bollocks.

  8. Skeptics are here to look for evidence, and having read the so-called success reports, none of the published reports can be used to even start to guess how well Dr. B’s treatments work. If I ever read a credible, randmized, double-blind clinical trial showing Dr. B’s antineoplastons work, I will happily look for more evidence that they work — because even a well-designed clinical trial must be replicated before determining the treatment is successful. In this case, the skeptics tend to agree with one another because after more than 30 years and ample opportunity, there is still no convincing evidence this stuff works.

  9. judging by the reaction, i must have hit a sore spot; you cannot compare a driving licence and medical qualifications: I do maintain my point, Andy Lewis and others have no medical qualifications, no clinical experience, but feel qualified to tell doctors and professor of medicine what to do.
    As soon as you point this out, the defensive/ aggressive response is immediate with BSM and Alan Henness.
    Reliance on RCT only to define what is good medicine and therefore defining anything that is not backed up by RCT as bad medicine seems a bit weak to me.

    • Before we go on Ademo, can you detail any part of my argument that would be due more or less weight dependent on what certificates I have hanging on my bathroom wall?

  10. My comment was in the general context of the skeptics trying to tell doctors and professors of medicine how to run their consultations (ie what therapeutic medicine they should use or not)I find it disturbing that people who have no medical qualifications are so eager to tell doctors what to do, and prevent them to use treatment such as acupuncture or homeopathy because they do not like it. i think there is more to medicine than RCTs and clinical experience must count for something.
    That you and your friends disagree with the use of alternative medicine is ok, but you and your friends often give the impression that if you had your way, these practices would be banned.In this case, we face to issues: 1) the issues of your medical competence on what constitute a therapeutic modality or not, 2) a rather right wing attitude towards people freedom to choose.
    As far as Burzinsky is concerned, you have done some excellent work highlighting potential problem with his methods as well as his motives congratulations to you,; having said that, it is then down to American laws and to American scientists to decide if there is sufficient ground to stop him.

  11. “clinical experience must count for something.”

    It does, but just not very much. In areas where conditions naturally wax and wane and spontaneously remit then “clinical experience” can be highly deceptive and, where it is based in a defective understanding of the underlying biology, it merely becomes as excuse to practice ineffective and possibly dangerous therapies.

    This really is not very difficult to understand. Why do so many SCAM supporters find it hard?

    I’ll echo LCN’s request that you highlight one part of his argument that depends on the nature of his qualifications. SCAMsters get very twitchy about being criticised but they are very weak when it comes to addressing the substance of these criticisms and start whining pathetically. We are not kicking helpless puppies here but attacking people who systematically exploit the sick for self-aggrandisement and personal enrichment.

  12. To respond to BSM, I guess clinical experience would count a bit more if you were a practising doctor; your previous comments indicate that anybody who does not share your view is a scamster (sic) or a scam supporter, I would have thought that anybody with more than one brain cell in working order would not follow such a simplistic reasoning: if I agree with you it’s all fine, if I disagree I must be one of those evil alternative therapist, scamster etc; I am sure that all the good doctors who happen to use alternative therapies will be happy to be insulted by such an idiot

  13. They are talking about Burzynski’s therapy right now on BBC 2. I thought to myself, ‘that sounds like quackery,’ so I checked here and quickly found this.

    Some commenters seem to have been put off by your use of the ad hominem maneuver, but having recently written this piece on how to make ad-hominem arguments, I see no problem with it. Any rational analysis and presentation of relevant information deserves to be made. Ad hominem is only fallacious when it is irrational. Well done.

  14. You do realize that Burzynski’s treatments have passed FDA Phase II clinical trials. You also do realize that if his compounds did not accomplish what was claimed, were non-unique or found to have no significant effect on tumor reduction, they never would have passed Phase I clinical trials. Survivors using Burzynski’s compounds have testified in Congress to their effectiveness. In addition Burzynski won the largest trial in history where the FDA/Texas Medical Board sued a medical practitioner. Burzynski was sued on 46 different charges. All 46 charges were dropped during the course of the trial because Burzynski had documentary evidence of the effectiveness of his treatments and an enormous outpouring of testimonial support from cancer surviving patients. The FDA went on to work with Burzynski.

    Lastly, I wonder if you realize that the National Cancer Institute holds 11 copy cat patents on compounds eerily similar to those developed by Burzynski. In the patents for these compounds, Burzynski is listed as a reference for the effectiveness of the compounds. The claims made to the USPTO include Burzynski clinical data.

    Burzynski’s charges to patient’s are a side topic vs the efficacy of his medicine. There’s nothing “homepathic or natural” about their use or manufacture. Antineoplastons are lab manufactured synthetic compounds that are now as of June 2012 in Phase III FDA clinical trials.

  15. Some Truth,

    That ONE mythical Phase III FDA trial has not started and never will. It’s been on the books for over three years and Stan hasn’t even starting recruiting subjects. And if he ever does his ass in gear and actually does start recruiting subjects, the trial is only for children.

    Several of the people in the movie and the website have died. They don’t tell you that. The guy who made the infomercial for Stan is a commercial director who makes TV commercials for Old Navy and Campbell Soup.

    Stan is about to lose his medical license, finally, and I for one am counting the days.

  16. I would intervene and save the child’s life because I am am thinking, caring person with a natural innate reflex for survival.

    Defining “terrible choices based on information” is relative. Some people would consider chemotherapy and radiation to be a poor choice. Do they get to dictate to others and prevent them from receiving that kind of treatment? Of course not. and that is my only point.

    I have never had cancer (that I know of) so I’ve never been faced with that decision. I may very well choose the chemo route but I will also not reject another just because the FDA hasn’t approved of something. At 50 years old I have learned that my government and big business isn’t genuinely looking after my best interests. I am looking after my best interests. And I’ll guarantee that if and when I’m up against that wall I won’t let anyone limit my choices. Effective medicine in the United States is fantastic but not all good medicine stops at the borders.

    I’m just advocating freedom of choice, as this is (or was) a republic which gave freedom to the individual. Unfortunately, our government has largely swapped freedom for a feeling of security.

    But I am, after all, on a website populated by people who seem to have already decided what is good medicine and what is not, so I’ll leave you with wishes for a good life and a request to not mess with mine!

6 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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