This blog post will be updated periodically as we process the footage from the hearing from the first leg (November 19-25, 2015), with a new post dedicated to the second leg of the trial (May 3-13, 2016) – here.
When making the two documentaries about Burzynski, I had never had the luxury of attending an actual trial since there hadn’t been one after 2008 when I got involved investigating this story. I only had the transcripts to refer to. However, I found that attending the trial itself was more surreal then ever. It’s the exact same game over and over again on behalf of the prosecution.
What is remarkable about each court case involving the persecution of Dr. Burzynski is the Board’s choice of “experts”. The State’s first witness was Norman Fost, MD, MPH. Under oath, Dr. Fost admitted that he had no knowledge of Burzynski other than what the State’s attorney’s provided him. Fost’s knowledge of Burzynski was a simple “Google search”. He had not seen either one of the documentaries, never met a single Burzynski patient, and never met Burzynski before the trial itself. He admitted that he was not a cancer expert, not an oncologist, and had never in his career prescribed chemotherapy or radiation or treated any cancer patients.
Dr. Fost’s expertise involves childhood obesity, organ donation, stem cells, children’s mood disorders, and drug use in sports. Not anything involving cancer.
Dr. Norman Fost, like so many “expert witnesses” are “career expert witnesses”. He has testified in numerous cases as an expert witness. For this hearing, Fost was paid $10,000 for his pretrial testimony, another $2,000 to testify in court, plus travel expenses. Dr. Fost flew to Austin, TX from Wisconsin to testify.
It was reported that Lee Bukstein, had come out of retirement to try this case.
You can watch Dr. Fost’s entire testimony below:
The second day of the hearing was the State’s second expert witness, Elaine Kloos. This was her first time testifying as an expert witness. She was reportedly paid $20,000 for her pretrial testimony, another $2,000 to testify on Nov. 20th, plus travel expenses.
Elaine is a registered nurse and senior consultant with “Oncology Management Consulting Group”, a group that advises medical and radiation oncology.
This day of testimony involved billing practices only. It was a truly dry and dull day of testimony.
The only noteworthy events were a series of “honest mistakes” on behalf of this witness, where she contradicted her pretrial testimony during cross examination.
State’s witness: Cynthia Wetmore, MD, PhD. She was an expert witness involving the abstract idea of the definition of “The Standard Of Care” and how Burzynski has been “deviating from the Standard Of Care” — everything Burzynski does is an innovation that is not standardly practiced, therefore by definition everything Burzynski does is “outside of the Standard of Care”.
She was paid $10,000 for her pretrial testimony, $2,000 to appear in court, plus travel expenses.
The two witnesses that testified on this day were Wayne and Lisa Merritt. In 2009, Wayne was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. No one lives through stage IV pancreatic cancer—it has even taken the lives of the most wealthy and affluent, including Steve Jobs and Patrick Swayze.
When Wayne was diagnosed, he was given a death sentence and wanted to seek other therapies that weren’t the usual cut, poison, and burn—so he sought Burzynski.
The FDA generally prohibits anyone who isn’t a brain cancer patient from receiving Burzynski’s invention, Antineoplastons. In order for Wayne to be treated by Burzynski, he entered Burzynski’s “personalized gene targeted regimen”, where genetic testing is done on the patient’s tumor biopsy as well as the patient’s blood. Wayne was prescribed PB (phenylbutyrate) plus a few other cancer medications that were not approved for pancreatic cancer and were used off-label based on the genetic findings of Wayne’s cancer. Wayne was only treated for one month by Burzynski, and his cancer quickly went away and Wayne remains cancer-free today 6 years later.
But Wayne wasn’t testifying to defend Burzynski—instead, he was testifying against Burzynski because he was upset at the $20,000 price tag. The medications Burzynski prescribed his patients undergoing his personalized therapy are invented and sold by the major pharmaceutical companies, and one medication can easily cost more than $10,000 for a single month. Since insurance doesn’t cover this type of therapy, everything has to be out of pocket.
So someone who was cured of one of the most deadly and untreatable cancer types was apparently so annoyed by the price tag of his cure that he started a “Burzynski Scam” website, and has been the poster boy for the “anti-Burzynski skeptics” and the mainstream media when reporting on Burzynski. USA Today has featured Wayne’s story on many occasions.
I requested to be able to film their testimony, but Wayne and Lisa declined.
Another Burzynski patient or family member testified on this day, but due to confidentiality and HIPAA laws cameras were not allowed in the court room.
Stay tuned for the recap of the May 2016 leg of this trial.
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