Eric Merola’s documentary focuses on the controversies surrounding Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski, a Polish-born physician who has been at the center of controversy following his development of antineoplastons as a treatment for seemingly incurable cancers.
In offering antineoplaston therapy instead of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Dr. Burzynski forced the medical profession and the pharmaceutical industry to reconsider their long-held theories on cancer treatment. The reaction, not surprisingly, was harsh and negative. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sought to stop him based on a legal anomaly – Dr. Burzynski conducted his work in Houston without FDA approval, which was legal under Texas law at the time. Despite negative pressure from the media and the Congress, the FDA pushed five separate federal grand juries to indict Dr. Burzynski, ultimately resulting in two federal trials that failed to return guilty verdicts.
When the FDA couldn’t stop him, the federally funded National Cancer Institute reluctantly agreed to work with him – albeit by intentionally screwing up his instructions, thus resulting in test results that could not possibly succeed. Simultaneously, the government sought to hijack Dr. Burzynski’s research and patents on antineoplastons.
As filmmaking goes, “Burzynski” is fairly elementary stuff: talking head interviews, old news footage, and images of letters and documents with highlighted text. Dr. Burzynski and his supporters speak at length, but equal camera time is not given to those who questioned his work and results. (Even the film quietly admits that most of Dr. Burzynski’s patients have not achieved cancer-free results.)
Nonetheless, the film offers a jolting examination of the hideous collusion between federal agencies and the pharmaceutical industry. In their partnership, profits and ego massaging takes priority over the treatment of the terminally ill. Furthermore, the testimony of Dr. Burzynski’s patients – particularly the tragic testimony of a San Francisco policeman whose child died from the ravages of chemotherapy even though her cancer was cured by the doctor – provides a stirring contradiction to the empty boasts about the quality of the American medical system.