Monday, 12 December 2011

IMFW: The Burzinski Saga

Less an interesting medical fact today, more an interesting medical story. Are we sitting comfortably?

Then let's begin.

I was reading the Guardian today, as is my wont, and I came across this article about the interesting story of Rhys Morgan, a 17 year-old Welsh blogger. Rhys wrote a blog post about the Burzynski Clinic, a US cancer treatment centre. Keeping it brief, the Burzynski Clinic runs (non-randomised) clinical trials of a therapy for cancer, and it charges very sick people thousands of dollars for the privelege of taking part in these trials.

So far, so US healthcare.

But Morgan and other bloggers have pointed out that although these trials have been going on for decades, the National Cancer Institute website notes that no randomised controlled trials of Burzynski's treatment have been published, nor have other investigators been able to duplicate the results found by Dr Burzynski and his colleagues in earlier trials. The treatment is not approved by the FDA for the treatment or prevention of any disease, but people from the UK are raising hundreds of thousands of pounds to travel to the US to try this treatment, and these bloggers questioned that.

Unsurprisingly, the Burzynski Clinic repudiated these claims of unethical behaviour. For their trouble, Morgan and others were ineptly threatened with legal action by the Burzynski Clinic's former PR man (nice work), threats which they responded to in a dignified and thoughtful way. You can read Morgan's very interesting correspondence with the clinic here.

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