The wonderful world of alternative medicine never ceases to amaze. A few days ago, I was made aware through Dorothy Bishop's excellent blog (referring to Josephine Jones' blog) as well as Short and Spiky about the exploitation of a loophole in US research ethics regulation being used by the shady cancer "miracle cure" providing Burzynski Clinic in Texas to charge appalling sums of money for people to enter clinical trials of its yet unproven alternative "treatment". Further information and links to this effect are provided at the Skeptical Humanities blog. Since this means that medical clinics are allowed to charge handsomely for "treatments" that are not (yet) proven treatments and where, as a matter of fact, it is the person entering the trial that is doing a service to the clinic, not the other way around, obviously, US regulation in this area needs to be changed. Further interesting facts about Dr. Burzynski himself and his clinic that on its website magically professes itself to offer "Tomorrow's Cancer Treatment Today" can be found here. Some human perspective (if you need that) is provided by this story of a family that fell for the seductive tunes of Dr. Burzynski's magic flute.
But this is not all that this post is about. For as the story started to swirl around the bloggosphere, it apparently caught the eyes of representatives of the Burzynski Clinic, specifically it arrested the attention of one Marc Stephens. Mr. Stephens is apparently employed by the public relations department of the clinic, but posing as some sort of legal representative, he started to send increasingly threatening and uncivil emails to some of the two more critical bloggers. One example is found here, and another is here. As you can see, when pressed, the Burzynski Clinic behaves no better than what you would expect from a 2nd rate fraud-operation or a wannabe wiseguy or MC club hangaround. Harrassment is exactly the word you're looking for.
In both cases, progressively more aggressive threats are being made and, as these escalate, classic intimidation tactics are being employed. Most sinister of these are the accompanying google map links pinpointing the victims' homes. "We know where you live", indeed! Extra gravy on this already smelly heap of garbage is added in the second example, where Mr. Stephens realises that he has to do with a minor and then starts to threaten said minor with repercussions at school. Nice.
Now, if anyone held any doubt as to whether or not there might be a core of seriosity somewhere inside the Burzynski operation, now you know. It does not. They want your bucks badly, and they are prepared to go to any lengths to convey the impression that they can offer you an actual medical treament in exchange. They can't. And if people make the practices of this sorry excuse for a health care institution public, they behave just as you would expect of a con-artist who is prepared to walk over dead bodies to strike rich.
So, please, FDA, close the loophole and close down these vultures.
Follow further developments at twitter using #Burzynski or #Burzynskigate