Movie: Burzynski: Cancer is Serious Business Part II

Burzynski The Movie Part 2If you haven’t listened to my review of Burzynski: The Movie on The Movie Film Show, stop reading this right now and go listen to it now by clicking here (I am “Mr. Movie”). It is an excellent documentary about one visionary physician who is successfully treating cancer with what he calls antineoplastons–and often with greater success than tradition methods, such as chemotherapy. Unfortunately, Dr. Burzynski has had to overcome many obstacles in the development of his treatment–the worst being our own US government in the form of the FDA.

Now, director Eric Merola has returned to present his follow up documentary: Burzynski: Cancer is Serious Business Part II. In it, he upates us on the current state of antineoplaston therapy, as well as chronicles another breakthrough method of treating cancer being performed by Dr. Burzynski: targeted gene therapy.

With target gene therapy, Dr. Burzynski uses pharmaceuticals approved by the FDA, but used in an “off label” way, i.e.,in a way not approved by the FDA. His methods are personalized based several factors including the type of cancer the patient has, and gene testing. (“Off label” prescribing is a legal practice and most doctors prescribe some drugs to their patients in this way.)

The movie follows several patients and their experience with the Burzynski clinic, including the many governmental obstacles they have to face with their own health care systems. Several of these patients are UK based, so we get some good concrete examples of what full-blown socialized medicine looks like in practice.

The presentation style is similar to the previous movie, including the voice over narration and how written documents are illustrated and highlighted to tell help tell the story. They were effective in Part 1 and so it is natural to follow that format for Part 2. However, the film more closely follows real patients as their treatments are happening and ends up being more about their personal stories. It also shows us exactly how antineoplastons are administered and what a patient has to go through, both physically and financially, to get this treatment.

These details make for a much more personal feel, as well as a few tear-jerking moments when we see some patients who lose their battles with cancer, despite Dr. Burzynski’s treatments. All of the patients, whether successful or not, are shown to be extremely grateful to have had the chance to try the treatment they thought gave them the best chance for survival. The documentary also shows us, sadly, that not everybody gets that chance (even if they have the means to pay for the treatment).

What is made clear by the documentary is that the greatest obstacles to make great leaps forward in cancer treatment is not the science itself, but our own US government and the FDA. The FDA and conventional drug companies do not like that Dr. Burzynski is proceeding with his own patented drug outside the tradition method for bringing it to the market–and for that Dr. Burzynski and his clinic have faced several unjustified investigations by the FDA and the Texas medical board (and he has never been found of any wrongdoing and has been exonerated of all accusations made against him).

This film does a good job of illustrating this point, and the many punitive actions taken by the FDA as a result (such as currently refusing to allow terminal patients to participate in antineoplastons clinical trials). For example, antineoplastons are currently approved for phase 3 clinical trials. Merola makes an extremely effective point that some traditional drug makers have had their drugs approved prior to being required to enter phase 3 trials based on various criteria. He then demonstrates that antineoplastons have met this criteria, yet the FDA has still refused to approve it.

And before you go thinking “crazy conspiracy theory,” stop for a moment and think about the abuses recently revealed about the IRS, and how they targeted groups unfavorable to the government. It’s not hard to draw a few extra dots and assume that other agencies are also abusing their power in similar ways, especially in light of how the FDA has treated Dr. Burzynski (this point is not in the documentary–it was finalized before the IRS story broke out, so it is my own conjecture).

The picture isn’t without its drawbacks. The last third feels a little rushed and some of the stories told are incomplete. I understand the desire to release the film sooner than later, since this is an advocacy documentary–and I would have done the same thing had I been in Merola’s shoes–but it is rushed none-the-less. If anything, it is a motivator to keep up to date with current events. In fact, the movie’s official website has rebranded itself “Burzynski: Documentary Film Series” so perhaps other chapters will be developed as this story unfolds.

A more serious flaw is in how Merola attempts to explain some of the motivations behind the drug companies and the FDA. Too much emphasis is placed on the “profit motive” instead of where it is deserved: crony capitalism and a fascist system that is corrupt by nature. The problem with attacking the profit motive is that Dr. Burzynski himself has a for-profit enterprise and has even took his company public. There is nothing wrong with that, of course, and if anything this only shows that the profit motive is not to blame, thus undermining this line of argument.

The film also argues that the profit motive pits companies against each other so the cooperation needed for the kind of cancer treatment Dr. Burzynski does with targeted gene therapy is impossible to get approved by the FDA because the companies will never work together to test these kinds of things.

While that is true, the problem is not the profit motive or competition, but the fact that the government has created a crony system that only allows one way of developing drugs–and working outside of that framework is not only frowned upon but often illegal. Further, that Dr. Burzynski himself is putting these drugs together for patients with individualized cancer cocktails shows that the profit motive is alive and well and what is getting in the way is government interference–not the profit motive.

Despite being confused about the profit motive, if you were inspired as well as infuriated with Merola’s first Burzynski movie, you will want to follow up with Part 2. The picture gives us a more personalize experience of Dr. Burzynski’s work and the impact is has on his patients, and allow us to appreciate the work of a real hero in medicine: Stanislaw Burzynski.

Burzynski: Cancer Is Serious Business Part II is currently available on-demand on many cable networks in the US, and on Amazon and iTunes, and will be available for purchase on DVD starting July 1.

This movie was screened at my home on a Blu-ray disc given to me by the director.