A Houston doctor who has claimed to have found the cure for cancer was disciplined Friday by the Texas Medical Board after he was accused of misleading terminal cancer patients, including failing to disclose potential risks associated with the treatment.
Friday’s hearing was the culmination of a three-year legal fight between Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski, who developed a controversial treatment for cancer, and the Texas Medical Board. A standing-room-only crowd — including a number of former patients who continue to vouch for him — filled the board’s hearing room on Guadalupe Street.
The board’s staff had originally recommended that Burzynski pay a $360,000 fine and $20,000 in restitution to a patient. They also wanted Burzynski put on probation, with the power to automatically revoke his medical license if he violated the terms.
Instead on Friday, the board opted for a lesser penalty that included a five-year probation with more lenient terms, a public reprimand, more training and oversight, along with $60,000 in fines and restitution.
Burzynski’s attorneys called the decision a win.
“It means that he gets to continue medicine. He gets to continue to save lives,” attorney Gregory Myers said.
Myers and his co-counsel on the case told the board Friday that most of the 1,400-plus complaints lodged against Burzynski had been dismissed by the State Office of Administrative Hearings. Burzynski didn’t financially or physically harm patients named in the complaint, the judge had ruled.
The complaints that weren’t dismissed included accusations that Burzynski didn’t properly inform a patient when he changed the patient’s treatment plan, that he allowed one of his staff members to misrepresent herself to patients as a doctor and that he improperly charged patients for treatment.
“The judges found that Dr. Burzynski was not honest with his patients. They found that he did not adequately inform them about the treatments that they were receiving,” said Amy Swanhold, an attorney for the medical board, at the meeting.
She called Burzynski a “potential harm to the public,” and charged that he is dishonest to patients who come to him “searching for hope.”
Burzynski, a native of Poland, performed research at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston in the late 1970s, and, in 1993, won approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to perform a clinical trial of antineoplastons, a drug he says he developed, as a treatment for cancer. Although Burzynski said it cures cancer, the National Cancer Institute says antineoplastons aren’t approved by the FDA for the prevention or treatment of any disease.
Burzynski uses antineoplastons as a method of treatment at his Houston clinic, where 95 percent of his cancer patients are terminally ill.
“We try to do our best to provide excellent care for our patients. They rely on our treatment to live,” Burzynski told the American-Statesman. He accused the Texas Medical Board of harassing him and covering up the cure for cancer.
Many of his supporters showed up Friday, attesting to the life-saving treatment they and their loved ones received from Burzynski.
Sophia Gettino, 21, flew from New York to Austin to attend Friday’s hearing. Doctors found a brain tumor in her when she was 10 months old, and, although she tried other more conventional treatments, nothing worked until she started seeing Burzynski, she said.
“I’ve been in remission since I was 7 years old, and I’m here today” because of Burzynski, Gettino said.