Stanislaw Burzynski, dubious cancer doc, gets off on legal technicality

Oncologist and cancer-woo-debunker Orac has more on the legal details that allow this man to keep practicing medicine in Texas: "the dubious doctor known as Stanislaw Burzynski, who charges desperate patients with advanced (and usually incurable) cancer tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars to participate in his 'clinical trials' of antineoplastons, compounds that he claims to have isolated from urine and that he now represents as a promising new treatment that can do much better than existing therapies with much less toxicity, even though there’s no evidence that it can."

The Texas Medical Board has abandoned its prosecution of Burzynski, as noted in a previous Boing Boing post here with guest commentary by fellow anti-cancer-woo writer Robert Blaskiewicz.

The legal underpinnings of the case will be interesting to some, and too tedious for others, but here's the tl;dr from Orac's post: the outcome does not make the case that Burzynski's "science" is valid. The board simply found that, "as a matter of law, the TMB couldn’t bring action against Burzynski on the basis of actions performed by doctors under his supervision."

I’m not going to lie or downplay it here. The dismissal of the TMB action against Burzynski is a major setback to efforts to stop what Burzynski is doing. He’s now basically free to continue to do what he’s been doing for the last thirty years. Once burned, it’s unlikely that the TMB will take another crack at him any time soon. The last time it did was back in the 1990s. Will it be in the 2020s before a future board decides to try again, or will Burzynski retire or die before then, leaving his son Greg to carry on the family business?

The fact that the Texas Medical Board lost this fight is nothing short of a tragedy for desperate cancer patients and their families throughout America. It means more cancer patients who are afraid of dying and don't understand oncology enough to know when they're being lied to by an exploitative opportunist will face a very bleak fate indeed. We who have cancer deserve real medicine. We deserve honest care. We deserve a legal system that protect us from quacks who treat our desperation as an opportunity to cash in.

Update: Fred Trotter writes, in the comments below:

We are using Stanislaw as an example case for exercising our DocGraph (related Wired News article). Interesting facts so far: It appears as though Stanislaw is not billing Medicare at all (makes sense). There are several doctors that share an address with Stanislaw, so it is possible to detect and "name" his "team", and they do not appear to bill Medicare either. This kind of utterly isolated medical team might be something that can be used to find other qwacks? not sure, but it is interesting data.

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  1. We are using Stanislaw as an example case for exercising our DocGraph…

    http://www.medstartr.com/projects/93-phase-ii-next-level-doctor-social-graph

    http://www.wired.com/business/2012/11/healthcare-data/

    Interesting facts so far: It appears as though Stanislaw is not billing Medicare at all (makes sense). There are several doctors that share an address with Stanislaw, so it is possible to detect and “name” his “team”, and they do not appear to bill Medicare either…

    http://docnpi.com/npi/1093836819/

    This kind of utterly isolated medical team might be something that can be used to find other qwacks? not sure, but it is interesting data…

    -FT

  2. Seems like a despicable individual. However, the “gets off on legal technicality” rhetoric is dangerous. It’s part of the standard reactionary toolbox of tough-on-crime BS that’s given us such wonders as 3 strikes, the war on (some people who use some) drugs, and the evisceration of the 4th Amendment. If what he did isn’t a crime, he shouldn’t be prosecuted. That’s not a hard call to make. It seems certain that it *should* be a crime but that’s a job for the legislature and not the prosecutor.

  3. The doctors he blamed are named in the legal documents of the case. Only one of those above is named. He has other “internists” working for him and “research associates” who don’t appear to be licensed to practice in Texas. 

  4. I don’t know how they figure into things, but I believe that if your regular doctor is monitoring you, say to make sure you don’t die of hypernatremia while you’re doing the antineoplaston therapy, then she may be listed as a co-investigator, even if she told you it’s quackery and that you should stay the hell away.

    I hope that the doctors who get crucified here are the ones who are genuinely complicit, rather than those who are just trying to do some risk mitigation for their patients.

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