Note: I have recently published a slightly edited version of this review on Devtome.
Burzynski is a controversial documentary about an alternative cancer cure. More specifically, it’s about the work of Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski, who has allegedly found an effective cure for many types of cancers while facing persecution from the FDA and other arms of the medical establishment.
This is a movie that has gotten lots of grass roots support, and very little attention from mainstream critics. In fact, the majority of the “professional” reviews I read were extremely hostile, no doubt causing the conspiracy minded to wonder if there are powerful forces at work to suppress this film and the topic.
The movie itself is well done, persuasive and yet completely one-sided. There is no attempt to show things from the FDA’s point of view. This won’t bother people who are firmly entrenched in the “alternative” side of things (I’d have to include myself in that category, to be honest), but is unlikely to win many new converts.
All of this, however, should be secondary to the real question -has Dr. Burzynski actually found a cure for cancer? After watching this film, I wasn’t completely persuaded. It certainly seems that he’s cured many people who were deemed incurable by conventional doctors, yet even the film admits his success rate is only around 25%. The film, of course, only focuses on cases that were successful.
Does this justify the FDA and the Texas Medical Board spending years trying to revoke his medical license, prevent him from treating patients, and even trying to get him put in prison? Of course not. The film is far more successful at exposing the corruption, mindless bureaucracy and ultimate heartlessness of the medical establishment than it is in showing us that Burzysnki has found a viable cure.
As the movie shows, many conventional chemotherapy treatments are deadly in themselves, some even causing other types of cancer, such as leukemia. Burzynski’s treatments, meanwhile, apparently have no harmful side effects. So, even if his methods haven’t (yet?) been perfected, what possible justification can there be to call him a quack or charlatan, while hospitals routinely administer such blatantly toxic treatments every day?
The documentary also is quick to point out the real motive behind the suppression of alternative cures -pharmaceutical company profits. The fact that these giant companies work in league with the FDA is far beyond a conspiracy theory, as it’s practically done out in the open. For these reasons, I’m a bit perplexed at the reaction of some reviewers who seem all too quick to trust establishment medicine and condemn anyone who’s an outsider.
My ultimate reaction to Burzynski is little ambivalent. I think the film would have been more effective if it has been a bit more balanced. For example, to show one success story after another, as emotionally effective as this is (in some cases they are young children with brain tumors), gives the impression that Burzysnki’s methods are always effective, when in fact they’re not.
Overall, Burzynski is well worth watching, especially as it gives some disturbing insights into how the FDA and pharmaceutical companies operate.