David M. Rorvik
David Rorvik

Fellowship Title:

Laetrile (3): The “Quacks” Are Winning

David Rorvik
September 13, 1976

Fellowship Year

Part 3

"Praise the Lord, and Pass the Ammunition."

With Short Takes on:


This is the third installment of the Laetrile controversy. In the first installment (DMR-2) major Laetrile studies were examined and found to yield evidence of significant Laetrile efficacy in some animal tumor systems, despite denials to the contrary from Alexander Schmidt, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, and Frank Rauscher Jr., director of the National Cancer Institute. The roots of the Laetrile controversy were explored and the various postulated actions of the substance discussed. In the second installment (DMR-4) I turned my attention to the embattled Laetrile personnae, focusing, in particular, on Andrew A. L. McNaughton, “godfather” of the Laetrile movement. “In the past 30 years,” wrote a Canadian reporter, “Andrew McNaughton’s life has spun a tangled and sometimes shadowy web of scandal-charged headlines and international intrigue which has seen his name linked to … multi-million dollar stock swindles … and Mafia mobsters in New Jersey.” In DMR-4 I believe I succeeded in untangling the “web” and in illuminating the “shadows.” I also related my firsthand experiences in Tijuana — at the clinics of Dr. Contreras and Dr. Soto. I previewed results of studies they are about to publish. Dr, Contreras’ paper will cover his ten-year experience with the use of Laetrile in humans. I related also the views of two prominent Israeli physicians who visited the Tijuana clinics and have concluded that the substance has merit. I interviewed a number of patients and addressed myself to some of the charges that were levelled against Dr. Contreras and others by the San Diego grand jury which earlier this year turned in 19 Laetrile indictments. Short takes in DMR-4 included news of some of the prominent people rumored to be using Laetrile. In this final Laetrile installment I focus on Laetrile personalities and politics north of the border.

“Nutty and Shrill”


Not long ago, Raymond K. Brown, M.D., who recently resigned from the staff of Sloan-Kettering, read me a letter he subsequently sent to a newspaper in his home state of Virginia. In it he states that he believes that Laetrile has some effectiveness when combined with nutritional and metabolic therapies. “When the opponents of Laetrile state that it is ‘worthless and unproven,’” he observes, “they refer only to experimental work on mice tumors when Laetrile alone is used. This total reliance on animal work and a disinclination to consider any anecdotal human cases, however well documented, has been used to justify the stand of those who are opposed to the testing of Laetrile in humans. Their rigid and repressive stand has been matched by the political exploitation of this issue by various pressure groups.

“The attempts to suppress and withhold a non-toxic, possibly effective approach to cancer by bureaucratic and institutional groups is vieved by many as a serious violation of individual rights and strikes a responsive chord in many who would otherwise not be attracted to the activities of the John Birch Society. The polarization of attitudes of each side is so complete that the conclusion is inevitable that each is more interested in proving a point than in finding the truth, which is somewhere in the middle of the controversy.”

Another cancer researcher who describes himself as “in the middle” echoes Dr. Brown’s words on a not-for-attribution basis: “The polarity is just appalling. I know most of the vocal people on both sides; they’ve all got massive egos or axes to grind. They’re as nutty and shrill on one side as on the other. Pushing Laetrile, you have Larry MacDonald, a U.S. Congressman (D.-Georgia), who Jack Anderson calls the worst Representative in Congress. There’s Steve Symms, another U.S. Congressman (R.-Idaho); he’s been named one of the ‘Dirty Dozen’ by a leading environmental organization. Then there’s Dr. John Richardson out in California; he’s the martyr. He doesn’t care half as much about patients as he does about the John Birch Society. Dean Burk, a brilliant man, used to be quite good; now he gets up and says damn near anything to muddy the water — and people listen to him. Old Dr. Krebs, he’s bubble-headed, a genius, but bubble-headed, totally interested in the trophoblastic theory of cancer. His worst publicity, by the way, comes from female reporters. He’s a total anti-feminist and many would call him a racist, as well. Old Dr. Gurchot is the best one; he’s got everything pretty well together.

“Then on the other side you’ve got some who have been opposing Laetrile for so long, without really knowing why, that they’re practically psycho. The American Cancer Society, people like Helene Brown — on this issue they’re completely hopeless. I’ve tried to divorce myself from both sides.”

I can’t agree with everything this man has to say, but he does score a point: in the guerrilla warfare that is now raging in the Laetrile jungle it is difficult for objective individuals to be comfortable on either side. Larry MacDonald’s right-wing politics don’t sit well with me, but I give the man credit for taking a reasonable stand on Laetrile. if Symms is as “dirty” as the environmentalists say he is I would probably vote against him, were I a resident of Idaho; at the same time I commend him for working on behalf of Laetrile. Dr. Burk could perhaps be a bit more circumspect in some of his public pronouncements but he’s a paragon of restraint compared to the Helene Browns on the other side. I deplore Krebs’ anti-feminism and his alleged racism and judging by the stories some of Krebs’ supporters have told me I believe Marci McDonald (see DMR-4) probably exaggerated only a tad when she wrote of Krebs: “Later at lunch, hands shaking, he will expound on the place of the weaker sex, the degeneration of society and the uppityness of ‘these people straight off slave ships who think they can mix in our genetic pool.’” Horrifying views? Yes, but in my view Krebs’ Laetrile contributions are diminished not a soupcon thereby. As for Richardson, his rhetoric turns me off but, at one point, he was more important than anybody else in keeping the Laetrile issue alive.

“The Reason Why We Are Winning”


It was to Mike Culbert that I went for background on people like John Richardson, Krebs and the various organizations that have sprung up to defend Laetrile against the multiple assaults of federal and state agencies. Culbert is author of the book Vitamin B-17: Forbidden Weapon Against Cancer (Arlington House, 1974), easily the best of the pro-Laetrile books. Formerly editor of the Berkeley Daily Gazette, Culbert is now an energetic and articulate full-time spokesman for the Laetrile movement — and, in a sense, its historian. He is editor of the lively monthly newsletter Choice, official publication of the nonprofit Committee for Freedom of Choice in Cancer Therapy, Inc. (146 Main Street, Suite 408, Los Altos, CA 94022).

There are today four major nationwide organizations that advocate “alternative” cancer therapies, including, of course, Laetrile. The first of these to appear — in the 1960s — was the International Association of Cancer Victims and Friends (IACVF). A clash of egos saw the Los Angeles chapter of IACVF splinter to form the Cancer Control Society. The New York chapter of IACVF followed suit, setting up as the Federation of Alternative Cancer Therapies. All three organizations still exist and continue to expand with chapters nationwide. Each holds an annual national convention attended by several hundred members, cancer patients, physicians, researchers, politicians and other interested parties.

But the pro-Laetrile organization that has grown the fastest and has had the greatest impact politically is the Committee for Freedom of Choice, Culbert explains how it came to be. In the 1950s, he recalls, Laetrile was “discredited” in the conclusions of a 1953 report of the California Cancer Commission (the misrepresentations of which are documented in DMR-2), a report which, in 1963, became the basis for California laws making it a crime to use Laetrile in the specific treatment of human cancer. It appeared for a time that Laetrile would go the way of other, previously introduced “alternative” cancer therapies, such as the Gerson diet, Krebiozen and the Hoxsey treatment, all of which were decried as quackery by the medical establishment despite considerable evidence of efficacy.

“Laetrile was slowly dying on the vine, largely being ignored to death,” Culbert says, “and then came the single most traumatic event in the history of Laetrile and one which, more and more, I am convinced, is the reason why we are now winning the battle: In July of 1972 the district attorney of Alameda County (California) made the critical error of arresting the wrong man at the wrong place and the wrong time on the wrong charges. That man was John A. Richardson, M.D., a well-known Bircher, well-respected in the area either because of or despite his Birchism. The result of this arrest was that several people, Birchers or crypto-Birchers, gathered in Berkeley and set up the Committee for Freedom of Choice, the original idea being to go to the defense of Dr. Richardson. It was a perfect vehicle for the Birchers: the enterprising individual against giant, meddling Big Brother government.”

Richardson, with the Committee’s help, won his case. Laetrile was suddenly a highly visible property in the media. And individuals, of all political stripes, who didn’t believe the government should have the right to deny people access to any non-toxic substance that their doctors believed might help them rallied to the Laetrile cause. Net result: The Committee today has several full-time employees, its own publication, more than 400 chapters nationwide, 28,000 paid members including more than 600 M.D.s. And the anti-Laetrile forces of the FDA, the California Department of Health and the ACS have continued to contribute to its growth by persistently singling it out as public enemy number one in the war on “quacks.”

The “overwhelming minority” of the Committee’s membership is John Birch, Culbert says, but the Society itself has never formally endorsed Laetrile. Charles Armour, district governor of the Birch Society in 13 western states, says: “Although we have publicly defended the basic right of doctors to treat patients according to their professional judgment, including the use of Laetrile, we have neither encouraged our members to use or not to use [Laetrile].”

Committee President Bob Bradford


President of the Committee is Robert Bradford. He and co-founder and vice-president Frank Salaman are accused by a Federal grand jury in San Diego of being part of a multi-million dollar international Laetrile smuggling ring. They are accused of bringing Laetrile illegally over the Mexican border in order to sell it, at large markups, in this country.

Now somebody who would buy Laetrile for perhaps $9 a vial in Mexico and then sell it to desperate cancer patients (who are denied easy access to Laetrile by state and federal authorities) for as much as $60 a gram, as has been charged in some press reports, would have to be one of the lowest critters extant. For a man to resort to so fetid a scheme he would either have to be greedy beyond reason or desperate beyond belief — and, in any event, it seems to me that there would then be easier and more honorable ways for him to get his hands on money — like bank robbery, muggings, conventional murder.

So I thought I would check into the background of Mr. Bradford and see if he could possibly be so lacking in intelligence and in such want of money that he would do what the grand jury says he does. Here’s what I found out: Mr. Bradford is 45; he is the son of a physician. He served with the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War and graduated at the top of his class in electronics and missile guidance systems at Georgia Tech. At Cape Kennedy, later on, he helped develop the guidance system for the first U.S. tactical guided missile. Before leaving the military in 1955 he was head of the Air Force electronics and guidance systems program. During a 10-year period as a research scientist with General Electric he helped develop the first high-power klystron amplifier and other equipment which made possible our present long-range radar systems. He contributed significantly to prototype microwave cooking systems and to the first linear accelerator used in cancer treatment. He built one of the first prototype heart defibrilators.

Because of these and other contributions Bradford was urged to join the development team which built the famed two-mile long Stanford linear accelerator. Bradford was assigned the critical task of developing the accelerator’s thyratrons at the heart of the system’s power plant. In the course of carrying out this task, Bradford advanced electronic tube technology with a number of his discoveries. During his 10 years on the staff of Stanford University Bradford operated his own medical electronics firm and acted as consultant to such companies as General Electric, Varian, RCA and Lytton Industries. Bradford was not headed for a brilliant and financially rewarding career — he already had one.

With his interest in medicine (engaged as he was in the development of radiation equipment to be used in cancer treatment), it’s not surprising that he got wind of Laetrile in the early 1970s. He was intrigued and, not content to accept the conclusions of others, as reported in the press, he began looking into Laetrile on his own. One of his first “stops” was the negative 1953 report of the California Cancer Commission. When he examined the raw data upon which the conclusions of that report were purportedly based he decided that Drs. Garland and MacDonald (briefly profiled in DMR-2) had lied outright since their conclusions were not supported by the raw data. Bradford suddenly found himself immersed in the strange politics of cancer research, and when Dr. Richardson was arrested a short time later he was quick to come to his defense, organizing the Committee for Freedom of Choice in the process.

Even with the Richardson case won, however, he found he could not let the Laetrile issue go. He was by this time thoroughly convinced of its efficacy and felt that it was his moral duty to fight the oppression that had been mounted against the substance. And so gradually he had to curtail his lucrative personal medical-electronics business, his consulting jobs and finally, in March 1975, even his very successful academic career. Then, in order to keep the Committee alive and functioning effectively in its infancy he donated all of his savings and even sold his house and put the proceeds from that into the cause. Today he lives a Ralph Nader-like existence in a one-room apartment, has a couple changes of clothes and no longer even has his own car.

Bradford, Salaman and a number of other Americans and Mexicans are accused of distributing between June 1, 1973 and December 1975 some 700 shipments of “illicit” Laetrile said to be worth — on the heartlessly marked-up market — $1,200,000.

“Let us look carefully at just this one figure,” says Bradford. “The facts are that the legal price of Laetrile in Mexico as authorized by the Mexican government is $9 per three-gram vial, with tablets ranging in price from 50 cents to $1 each. The slightest perusal by the Feds of published distributors’ price lists in this country would reveal that the cost of this processed amygdalin to doctors is $10.50 per vial — that is to say, the ‘markup’ between the legally established price in Mexico and the price to doctors is a rather picayune $1.50.

“What does the $1.50 cover? Obviously, costs of importation, transportation and distribution. If one added on the cost of potential legal fees involved because of the murkiness of the law regarding Vitamin B-17, the $1.50 markup would hardly be enough.

“The government alleges that there were 700 illicit shipments during the aforementioned time, and that their worth was a mere $1,200,000 — a figure which pales alongside the worth of illicit narcotics seized in single, one-hour raids, as compared to so-called illicit Laetrile transactions over a period of two and a half years. So it is easy to imagine that the alleged ‘illegal profits’ must be on the order of 10 percent — that is, $120,000. This figure, divided among all the alleged ‘smugglers,’ ‘conspirators’ and ‘co-conspirators,’ hardly leaves much in the way of lucrative profits for any single person. It is to be hoped that, for all the risks involved, somebody has made some profit in the transactions.”

Frank and Maureen Salaman: Laetrile Activists


Frank Salaman is vice president of the Committee; his wife, Maureen, is associate editor of The Choice. The idea that they got into the Laetrile movement to make a quick buck just doesn’t wash. They own the oldest boat business in northern California. They sell yachts and are wealthy people. They are, if anything, less wealthy today because of their Laetrile involvement. They have been putting thousands of dollars each month into the Committee for the past several years. “For this,” Mrs. Salaman says, “we’re called cheap profiteers.”

She says that the press has been manipulated and used by those who condemn Laetrile. “There have been so many outright lies published about us. Some of the papers have treated us like the worst kind of crooks. The Palo Alto Times, for example, ran a story that said that Bob (Bradford) and Frank conspired to build a Laetrile factory in Mexico and then sell the stuff in this country for as much as 700 percent profit. It doesn’t even allege that in the indictments, which are preposterous enough to begin with. Somebody clipped that story and underlined in red all the parts that pertained to us; then that somebody distributed them to every mailbox in our neighborhood here in Atherton (California). Typical fanaticism. Somebody wanted to stir up the natives. Every window in my car was broken. I was blackballed out of one of the local clubs. We get poison pen letters.”

Mrs. Salaman is bitter but fighting back. “I’ve been to practically every newspaper within a hundred miles of the Bay area, trying to get the record set straight on some of these distortions. The John Birch issue is one example. Many of the press stories gave the impression that everybody in the Committee is a Bircher. It’s not true. I’m not even a member myself. It’s irrelevent, in any event. It’s shoddy journalism — an attempt to prejudice the jury and further isolate us from the community. The editor of the Palo Alto Times hung up on me when I’d call him so I went to his office every day for two weeks insisting he have the decency to discuss his story with me. He refused to see me — day after day — until finally he deigned to stop outside his office door to shout that we were criminals, that we belonged in jail and that he was going to do everything he could to see to it that we ended up there. I said it was obvious that he wasn’t even going to listen to our side and asked what had happened to freedom of the press, impartiality and so forth in this country. He said that if we didn’t like it we could move to a communist country, turned on heel and slammed the door in my face.

“We’ve given five years of our lives and now practically our liberty to this cause, only to be reviled, while Herb Hoffman (prosecutor in the forthcoming San Diego trial) is called ‘courageous’ by Medical World News. It’s enough to make you cry.”

There are rays of sunshine, however; the stridency of stories like the one in the Palo Alto Times has caused some other editors to take a second, more moderate took at Laetrile, fearing that they, too, might have over-reacted. A new wave of sympathy appears to be cresting in the wake of the San Diego indictments, the Birch smear and so forth. Committee membership is growing at an unprecedented rate. Dozens of Laetrile stories are in the works for magazines and newspapers. Radio and television stations are showing renewed interest. And many of the reporters I’ve been talking to on the “Laetrile beat” appear open-minded and, in many cases, openly sympathetic to the Laetrile cause. The “crackdown” is already backlashing.

An interesting side-light to the Salaman story is the fact that a man who was once very prominent in the Food and Drug Administration has moved next door to the Salamans. At the time that the Laetrile IND was revoked, this FDA man endorsed that revocation. Now, Mrs. Salaman reports, the mam’s wife has given her a $10 contribution, adding that if she ever got cancer she’d probably pack her bags and head for Mexico as quickly as possible. The children of the former FDA man are friends of the Salaman children — and therefore well versed in the politics of cancer research. Mrs. Salaman says they’re threatening to leave home if their father doesn’t “come around” on Laetrile.

Laetrile: More Legal than Illegal


People sell Laetrile in this country. There’s no denying that. The Committee does not deny it. All of the pro-Laetrile organizations, in fact, openly provide doctors with lists of Laetrile distributors who sell Laetrile for $10.50 per 3-gram vial. The distributors do not ask questions about the source of the Laetrile. It is easiest to assume that it has crossed the border legally. And this assumption is not entirely sophistic — for a great deal of Laetrile has come over the border legally and a number of attorneys have argued, in any event, that as either a vitamin or simply a food Laetrile is not subject to FDA control. For years patients, asked at the border if they have anything to declare, have truthfully answered, “Yes, I have some items prescribed by my doctor.” And in many cases the border guards, fully aware that these patients were talking about Laetrile, let them pass. Indeed, for some long period of time there was a written policy prescribing this course of action. Lately, in the wake of the San Diego indictments, tighter controls have been instituted. (Cancer patients who believe their lives are being endangered by the new policy of seizing all Laetrile at the border have written, sometimes with the assistance of their Congressmen, to the FDA demanding to know why there is so much new harassment at the border. The FDA primly writes back that it does not harass cancer patients. Asked about this, director of U.S. Customs in San Diego, recently observed: “That’s right. They have us do the harassing.” There are some border guards, obviously, who are fed up with hassling cancer victims who got no help in the States and are now finding some comfort in Laetrile.) The point is: in the recent past, at least, a great deal of Laetrile came over the border legally — in the hands of cancer patients.

In December, 1975, Bradford was arrested for “smuggling” Laetrile. No one alleges, however, that he crossed the border with undeclared Laetrile. Two Mexican nationals delivered the Laetrile to Bradford on this side of the border. Bradford says he was unaware that the nationals had not declared the substance. An incredible phalanx of agents was deployed to effect the arrests of Bradford and the Mexicans. Apparently tipped off by someone that the shipment was coming through, the government dispatched 20 federal agents in 12 cars to nab Bradford and the Mexicans. Bradford’s automobile was seized and “forfeited,” which means he will not get it back. He was initially held on $50,000 bail, a sum generally reserved for heroin smugglers. The judge ultimately disagreed with the government over the severity of Bradford’s alleged crime and reduced bail to $7,500. The case was eventually absorbed by the San Diego grand jury — and Bradford is now part of the “Laetrile 16.” (Sixteen individuals were indicted in an alleged conspiracy to smuggle Laetrile, along with three firms.)

Bradford’s attorneys say that, apart from the fact that their client did not conspire to smuggle, there is the unresolved issue of whether a substance which many regard as a vitamin or a natural food factor legally comes under the jurisdiction of the FDA. (Members of the Committee have letters from the FDA, from a few years back, in which that agency admits that Laetrile is not on any list of prescribed substances.) Customs agents, when they do seize Laetrile, do so now under the “authority” of an “Import Alert” issued by the FDA on October 7, 1974. This “Alert” states:

“When encountered, regardless of how described or declared, the product should be sampled, placed under FDA seal, held without analysis pending further instructions, and the consignment should be detained, charging ‘801 (a) (3) — the article appears to be a new drug, within the meaning of Section 201 (p), without an approved New Drug application pursuant to Section 505 (a)’ unless the article purports to be an extract or concentrate of apricot, peach, or almond kernels. In the latter case, charge the article appears to be adulterated in that it is a food additive that is unsafe within the meaning of Section 409.”

Note that this “Alert,” apparently not meant for public eyes, is a directive to exercise laws on grounds which are implicitly acknowledged to be uncertain: charge, the “Alert” directs, that the substance “appears” to be a new drug or that it “appears” to be adulterated. Then don’t analyze it until further notice. (Why? Because harassment is the objective? Because analysis might disprove the assumptions upon which the substance is seized?) The “Alert’s” legality has never been tested in the courts; hopefully it will be in the course of the San Diego trial.

Attorneys for the Laetrilists say that Laetrile cannot be regarded as a “new” drug not only because they regard it as a food factor but also because amygdalin has been listed in the Merck Index since 1907. Some courts have ruled that substances widely used and accepted for medicinal purposes prior to the passage of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938 (which says that no drug can be sold in interstate commerce or offered for sale in interstate commerce that has not been proved safe and effective for its intended use) are exempt from “new drug” testing requirements under “grandfather” clauses. And these attorneys say that Laetrile cannot be regarded as an unsafe food additive since millions of people consume it every day in various forms, since it is present in literally hundreds of foods in small quantity.

But we’re just beginning to stir the murky waters. Observe that the law that applies merely prohibits the interstate sale of Laetrile (provided the government can indeed demonstrate to the satisfaction of a jury that Laetrile is a new drug or a substance that has not been proved safe and effective). I called the headquarters of the FDA and asked a spokesperson there what happens if you manufacture Laetrile within state boundaries and then sell it only within those state boundaries — something reportedly now happening in Wisconsin.

The spokesperson said: “If it does not cross state lines we do not have the same type of jurisdiction over it. For example, Krebiozen is a drug not approved by the FDA as safe and effective; however, a court order in Illinois has stated that as long as it is not sold crossing state lines and as long as it is manufactured and sold only in the state of Illinois it can continue.” The same would hold true, she said, for Laetrile.

Then I asked, what if it is used as a nutritional treatment and not as a cancer treatment? “As long as it is being used as a food and does not make therapeutic claims it is considered a food and does not have to be proven safe or effective,” she said. And so then, I pressed, it could cross state lines and be sold in interstate commerce? “I believe so,” the spokesperson said, “but I’m not sure. They would have to prove that they were using it like a dietary supplement, similar to a vitamin.”

FDA Harassment


Alaska, which recently approved a law specifically legalizing Laetrile and prohibiting the state’s medical boards from suspending M.D.s who prescribe it, has apparently recognized the essential impotence of the FDA in regulating the sale and manufacture of Laetrile within state lines. The FDA and others speak loosely of Laetrile as a “banned” or “illegal” substance. In fact, it is neither — except under circumstances of interstate sale — and then only if the points raised above stand up in court.

One might wonder why Laetrile advocates don’t simply set up a factory inside California. I was told that the FDA has threatened them with harassment if they do so — harassment intense enough to put them out of business. “They’ll find a few rat turds in the apricot bins, that sort of thing,” said one member of the Committee. This may not be an exaggeration. Many San Francisco area health food stores that were selling apricot kernels early last winter suddenly stopped stocking them. When I made inquiries it turned out that FDA agents were hassling the distributor of the kernels — a large packing plant outside the city. The agents were taking up so much of the plant’s time, checking out sanitary conditions, processing methods and so forth, that it was beginning to lose money. And the plant, of course, was in the business to make money — mainly by selling apricots, not apricot kernels. It got the message loud and clear. It stopped distributing the kernels to the health food stores. The FDA stopped its harassment. As simple as that.

Grant Leake, Food and Drug Coordinator of the Fraud Unit of the California Department of Health, says that he is determined to protect the people of California against Laetrile. In fact, he has been quoted as saying: “We’re going to protect them even if some of them don’t want to be protected.” I called Leake to ask him if the Alaskan situation would have any impact in California.

“The situation in Alaska,” he responded, “is not going to affect the California situation whatsoever. We think the governor (of Alaska) might have been shortsighted in not taking an action there, but that’s their business. I gather that the Federal Food and Drug Administration will not change its course of action whatsoever, merely because there’s a state law in Alaska permitting its use. They (FDA) will maintain that it’s a material coming in and being distributed and is an illegal drug substance in the state of Alaska.”

I point out that it is my understanding that Laetrile advocates will manufacture the substance within the state of Alaska.

“Is that what you understand?” Leake asks. “That’s what I’ve heard,” I say. “Well, that’s fine,” he says, “if you can raise apricots and cherry trees in Alaska.”

Whether Leake’s extremism will be embraced by the FDA I don’t know. But when an official makes such a statement the otherwise preposterous image of FDA agents checking through one’s personal effects on the icy periphery of Alaska, to make sure no one is bringing in any apricot kernels, begins to loom a little larger. If FDA can do this then it could also stop people from taking apples, cherries, prunes and literally hundreds of other established foods over state lines.

“Nobody in his right mind would suggest such a thing,” says one Laetrile attorney. “Big Brother isn’t that big yet, thank God.”

Dr. Richardson’s Metabolic Defense


There is only one state in the Union — “and maybe one other,” says Grant Leake — in which Laetrile is specifically banned for use in cancer. That state is California. Several years ago, in the wake of the 1953 California Cancer Commission report, the Assembly passed bills making it illegal to use Laetrile in the “diagnosis, treatment, alleviation or cure of cancer.” According to this law if you cure somone of cancer with Laetrile you’ve committed a felony. At least one court discerned the insanity of all this and declared the statute unconstitutional. The ruling, however, was overturned on appeal. A higher court yet will have the last word.

When Dr. Richardson was brought to trial he quickly admitted that he was giving his patients Laetrile, but he said that he accepted Krebs’ evaluation of the substance as a vitamin (Vitamin B-17) and that he was not using it to treat cancer, legally defined as the lump-and-bump, the tumor itself, but rather to treat the underlying metabolic causes of a great many diseases. Laetrile, he said, was administerd as part of a nutritional therapy, which included other B vitamins, minerals, Vitamin C, A and so forth. At first convicted, the appellate court reversed the conviction on various technical grounds and a new trial was ordered. This trial ended in a hung jury, with the majority of jurors stating publicly that they favored acquittal. A third trial resulted in dismissal of all charges.

Through this long, arduous and very expensive court process, Dr. Richardson continued to administer Laetrile to his patients. He continues, in fact, to administer it in his Albany, California, offices today. His landmark win in the courts opened a chink in the wall orthodoxy had tried to construct around Laetrile. The court decided, in effect, that Laetrile could legitimately be used — even in California — for metabolic therapy in patients suffering from no disease or any disease, including cancer.

Dr. Richardson is an ardent John Bircher, as the press continues to point out. He has become an expert on Constitutional law and is now giving those who harass him a run for their money. He sends officials of state and federal agencies affidavits which require the officials, by law, to swear that they are or are not sworn to uphold the Constitution and that they are or are not conspiring to deny him his Constitutional rights, and so on. He places those who refuse to answer, such as assistant U.S. Attorney Herb Hoffman, under technical arrest. Some of these actions have delayed legal moves against him — such as seizure of personal assets in tax matters.

Dr. Richardson has not paid income taxes since March 18, 1968. He freely admits this, in fact makes a point of it in public addresses. Annually, Richardson files the following statement with the IRS: “l hereby swear under penalty of perjury that the following statement is true and correct in every particular: I have received no income since March 18, 1968.” On that date, he explains, the government abandoned the silver standard and, in his view, left the U.S. dollar unsupported by anything other than whim. All “legal tender,” he contends, is thus invalid. So far the IRS, he claims, has been unable to make him pay.

He has been named one of the conspirators in the San Diego indictments. It is alleged that he deposited $2.5 million in northern California bank accounts between May, 1973 and August, 1975. He calls this allegation “a breathtaking lie.” One of his colleagues states that something under a million dollars was deposited during that time. Some of the money was redeposited — transferred — to two other accounts for bookkeeping purposes (salaries were paid for out of one account, different expenses out of the other accounts). This, the Richardson people say, can be proved in court. The government, they are thus claiming, counted the money Richardson deposited two and three times — making the sum appear much larger than it actually was. And again, as in the case of Dr. Contreras, no mention was made in the indictments that this money represented gross income. Dr. Richardson is the best-known Laetrile doctor in the United States. He is swamped with patients and employs a very large staff — to which he must, of course, pay salaries. He must also pay for rents, maintenance, supplies and so forth. Many doctors with operations the size of Dr. Richardson’s gross far more than a million dollars in a two-and-a-half-year period.

Since the Richardson case, the government has brought a number of other actions against the Laetrilists. Thirteen of 16 such actions ended in acquittals or dismissal of all charges. Juries have apparently concluded that Laetrile is a vitamin or a food substance that can be legally used — or they have simply decided that the government is trying to beat a good thing and that, in the face of so much “anecdotal” evidence that it is helpful, it wouldn’t be right to jail doctors who, more often courageously than corruptly, use Laetrile in the face of persistent and costly harassment from federal and state officials. Whether they buy the metabolic defense is arguable. That they think Laetrile ought to be used is not — at least in those 13 cases.

One setback for the Laetrilists was the conviction not long ago of Dr. James R. Privitera, a southern California physician, and several associates on charges of “conspiracy to commit the crime of the unlawful sale of drugs, compounds and devices in the alleviation, treatment and cure of cancer,” a felony. The defendants were placed on three-to-five years’ probation. Dr. Privitera’s conviction reversed a lower court ruling that the statute under which he was arrested was unconstitutional. The doctor and his attorneys have charged, in their appeal of the conviction, that the prosecution committed perjury and altered taped testimony.

One of the jurors in the five-month-long conspiracy trial, which cost the taxpayers at least half a million dollars, according to Dr. Privitera, says now: “I can’t sleep at night. Most of the jurors went in with minds closed like fists. I have this guilt within me. I have terrible nightmares now.” Ed Voss, youngest of the jurors, spoke these words, telling the Pasadena Star-News that the pre-Christmas verdict was delivered under extreme pressure. After five months of hearing testimony, most of the jurors were eager to wrap things up, he says. One juror, Voss says, had a roundtrip ticket to Hawaii; the man said “his wife would kill him if he didn’t finish in time to make the plane.” Most of the women jurors, Voss claims, wanted to get out and do their Christmas shopping. They ridiculed Voss for holding out. The least time-consuming thing, most of the jurors felt, according to Voss, was to find the defendants guilty and be done with it. Voss gave in to the pressure. So did another young juror who had initially held out for acquittal.

Most of the jurors, Voss says, “were old and retired and just didn’t give a damn about anyone else. I feel I should have some care for these people (the defendants), that I should be sure I made the right decision. I don’t think I did.” Guilt was never firmly established in his mind. At one point he referred to a videotaped exhibit the prosecution showed of an elderly cancer patient who had taken Laetrile and later died. Voss says: “Everyone just assumed that it was the amygdalin that killed her, not the conventional methods of cancer treatment. I think this is a poor assumption.”

The Case of the Undercover Agent with a Conscience


Two still unresolved Laetrile cases are worthy of discussion for what they reveal about the lengths to which the prosecution is apparently willing to go in order to secure convictions. What the pro-Laetrilists term “dirty tricks,” however, may be the prosecution’s undoing in both cases. On May 13 of this year Dr. Stewart M. Jones of Palo Alto was arrested for allegedly using Laetrile in the treatment of cancer. A preliminary hearing into the felony case heard testimony from Natasha Benton, an undercover agent hired, by the California Departments of Health and Consumer Affairs, to pose as a patient seeking Dr. Jones’ help. Miss Benton testified that she was sent to Dr. Jones office to get information that would help the district attorney win a conviction against him. The hope was that Dr. Jones would specifically advocate Laetrile for use against cancer. He denies that he did this and that, instead, consistent with his practice of several years, he recommds it only as part of an overall nutrional therapy for all patients. He is careful to tell all of his patients that he does not treat cancer — period. He does this because, several years ago, he came up against the state medical board on charges of using Laetrile for cancer. Since that time he has taken every legal precaution to protect himself against arrest or harassment.

Miss Benton testified in court, against the overruled objections of Santa Clara County deputy district attorney Michael F. Popolizio, that she had lied in the report she filed with the prosecution.

“Before any report is written,” undercover agent Benton testified, “Mr. (James) Eddington (a food-and-drug fraud specialist with the Department of Health) left instructions what for me to write. After I read those instructions I telephoned Mr. Eddington telling him I didn’t feel all those instructions were correct. He told me, ‘Go ahead and write what I said, because this is what we need to get a conviction.’ I wrote as close to what he said as I could, according to my conscience. But I still don’t feel that I told the truth in that report. Later on June first I was shown a quite lengthy report. He (Eddington) told me to sign that report before I went before the Grand Jury, and I could read it later; we didn’t have time at that time.”

Miss Benton was asked if she signed the unread report.

“Yes, I did,” she answered. “Later I read a small portion of it. That isn’t the report I wrote. Outside of this courtroom he (Eddington) admitted that isn’t the report I wrote. He said my report was — quote — so shitty, that that’s why he changed it — closed quote.”

Later Miss Benton testified further: “I was specifically asked to put that Dr. Jones said it (Laetrile) was a cancer cure.” Dr. Jones did not say this, Miss Benton added. In fact, she continued, he specifically said “he could not say Laetrile is a cancer cure.”

Popolizio, in cross-examining Miss Benton, had to be cautioned by the court on several occasions to stop shouting at the witness. On one occasion the judge admonished: “Would you stop screaming at the witness?”

Popolizio apparently sought to get the witness to say that some of the testimony she was now giving was the product of pressure she had been put under by unnamed individuals.

Miss Benton no doubt startled the deputy district attorney a bit when she said: “The pressure was that you told me if I didn’t help you get a conviction, you would press perjury charges.”

“Okay. I said that?” Popolizio said.

“Yes, sir, you did.”

A recess was called.

Later, back on the stand, Miss Benton said to Popolizio: “You have threatened me and I am afraid of you.” The judge told her to answer only those questions put to her and not to volunteer such information.

Asked about Miss Benton’s charges, Eddington says he asked her to list “certain relevant facts” in her report. If undercover agents “are intelligent enough without a Mary, Jane and Dick book, fine,” he adds; “If not, we have to help them along.” He claims he made only mechanical corrections to improve sentence structure, spelling and the like.

Dr. Jones’ attorneys are asking for dismissal of all charges.

When I talked with Eddington about the Benton affair, he said: “Undercover operatives have to be used in these types of investigations just to see what in actuality is happening when you don’t have any living victims who are complaining. There’s no truth to Natasha Benton’s claims. For some reason she decided we were the bad guys, and they were the good guys. She was considered by me to be a reliable undercover agent. So what happened is beyond me.”

“Yeah, sure…”


I was curious to know how much a man like Eddington, charged with the task of rounding up the”quacks” and putting them out of business, knows about something like Laetrile, a subject on which he should be an expert.

Eddington calls Laetrile the number one “health fraud” problem in California. He says Laetrile took off “like wildfire” and has been the fraud unit’s “number one priority for two years at least.” He estimates that the health fraud section devotes 70 percent of its time and budget to Laetrile.

I asked him how he knows Laetrile is fraudulent. “Oh, it’s been tested time and again,” he answers, “by competent scientists using good, critical, scientific steps.” When and where, I ask. “Well, there was recently in the last couple years Sloan-Kettering (sic) did a series of tests involving mice and certain tumor systems. Their results have been published and there was no activity.”

Readers of DMR-2 will note that Eddington, to be charitable, is incompletely informed on the Sloan-Kettering tests. Furthermore, SK results have never been published — though some are scheduled to be published soon. I ask Eddington if he is aware that tests are still going on at Sloan-Kettering, tests involving Laetrile. He says he doubts that, that if this were the case he would surely have been alerted. Well, it is the case — so I can only ask: whatever could Sloan-Kettering be thinking of, not keeping Jim Eddington informed?

Later Eddington tells me, with some gravity: “As you probably know, cyanide is the active principle in Laetrile and that’s what they used to use to kill people. There have been epidemiological reports of people taking, oh, 15 apricot kernels, eating them as per directed at the health food store or the book or whatever source they had; they attributed directly to the ingestion of these apricot kernels cyanide intoxication that resulted.”

I tell him that, apart from the dozens of persons I’ve witnessed taking 15 and more apricot kernels daily without ill effect, individuals who receive injections of six, nine and even 12 grams of highly concentrated amygdalin daily don’t seem to be keeling over dead. (I don’t take time to correct his gross misuse of the word “epidemiological” or to say that chlorine kills people too but that when bound to sodium it is a very useful and generally harmless substance we call “salt.”) But to my statements about apricot kernels, he responds:

“Yes, certainly, I couldn’t agree with you more and that really isn’t the ….” He doesn’t complete the sentence, but goes on to say: “I’m convinced from a scientific point of view there’s no value in it but you can’t discount the old placebo effect …. There’s never been one shred of evidence to support the theory that Laetrile has an effect in the treatment of cancer.”

Without pausing to wonder aloud just what it was about which he couldn’t agree with me more, I call attention to the work of Dr. Kanematsu Sugiura (see DMR-2) at Sloan-Kettering and point out that Dr. Sugiura still believes his research proves Laetrile halts metastases in some tumor svstems.

“Yeah, well ….” he says, again not finishing. Doesn’t this constitute a “shred” of evidence, I persist. “Sure, yeah,” he agrees affably; “there’s nothing absolute in this world.” Then I mention the vets who say they’re getting positive results with Laetrile. Isn’t that another “shred” of evidence and doesn’t that discount the placebo theory?

He says: “Yeah, well ….” His voice trails off.

Eddington, it should be noted, is not an office clerk. He is a “supervising inspector” in the Department of Health’s food and drug unit in the San Francisco area. He is, in effect, a ranking officer in the war on Laetrile.

“J. Hoover” Lives — to Entrap Again


While the Natasha Benton incident in the Jones case is instructive, the entrapment tactics used in another case are even more illuminating. Mrs. Daniel (Donna) Schuster and Donald E. Hanson, operators of a small health food business in Rochester, Minnesota, were arrested last December 23. Hanson, 44, is a professional musician by trade; Mrs. Schuster, 46, is the mother of three and the daughter of the retired chairman of the board of the prestigious Mayo Clinic. Mrs. Schuster is chairman of the very active Rochester chapter of the Committee for Freedom of Choice. Both she and Hanson are strong believers in the nutritional approach to good health; both believe Laetrile is effective.

The complete story of how Mrs. Schuster and Hanson were set up by federal Customs agents and postal inspectors is contained in affidavits filed by the government in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis. These affidavits, narrated by special customs agent Richard J. Hoglund, tell how an “informant” who claimed he had been hired to smuggle 8,400 tablets of Laetrile into the United States decided to come clean after he’d already got the stuff safely over the border. (Some may wonder why he didn’t come forward before committing his crime.) He went to San Diego customs agent Gene L. White and told him that the tablets were hidden in a San Diego garage. The feds descended on the place and found the stuff.

Then the “informant” — the guy who had smuggled the stuff over the border — said he just happened to have a list of all the people to whom the tablets were to be mailed. (The government has nothing to show indicating that any of these people had requested the Laeirile.) Agent White, for some reason, asked the “informant” to smuggle some more Laetrile across the border. Bigger quantitites, perhaps, would make better press. The “informant” willingly did this. Then White and another agent, the affidavits proudly assert, packaged up some of the smuggled Laetrile, wrote “J. Hoover” as the return address and mailed the bundle to Don Hanson, in care of Mrs. Schuster.

Hoglund, meanwhile, was waiting in Minneapolis and, with the cooperation of postal inspectors Bill Burgess in San Diego and Richard Stack in Rochester, arranged for delivery of the hot package at a apecific hour on December 23. Mrs. Schuster, who lives in the country on a rural route, heard the familiar, friendly honk of her mailman and went out to collect the unexpected package. No sooner had she returned to the house than there came loud knocks at the door. Agents who had been hiding outside thrust a search warrant in her face and barged in. The Laetrile (surprise!) was immediately “discovered” and Mrs. Schuster was handcuffed and hauled off in the middle of her pre-Christmas preparations. Meanwhile, back in town Hanson’s home was similarly being raided — and he, too, was arrested to the considerable shock of himself and his family.

Washington Star columnist James Kilpatrick, who has devoted a number of his nationally syndicated columns to the Rochester affair, says: “The story of what happened to Donna Schuster and to Donald E. Hanson might have been written in the pages of George Orwell’s 1984…. The story is pure and unadulterated outrage.” By widely publicizing the facts of the event, as presented in the government’s own affidavits, Kilpatrick mobilized so many sympathizers behind the Rochester duo that the government was inundated with letters and calls of protest. The furor reached such intensity that the FDA apparently felt obliged to fight back, which it did in a March 23, 1976 “status report on Laetrile.” This is a rather remarkable document. It reads:

“Dear Consumer: This is in response to your recent letter concerning the arrest and indictment of two people in Rochester, Minnesota, for allegedly smuggling Laetrile into the country. The FDA was not involved in the investigation leading to the arrest in Minnesota and we cannot comment on the particulars of the prosecution….The FDA has been watching, with increasing concern, a series of misleading articles concerning Laetrile by James J. Kilpatrick. In the beginning, Mr. Kilpatrick’s chief complaint was that Government has no business trying to protect the public from being swindled by sale of worthless remedies. More recently he has falsely suggested that Laetrile is a harmless substance whose use is free of any risk….

“Use of Laetrile presents two very real dangers. One is that it may delay or interfere with early diagnosis and swift treatment. Cancer is a disease in which delay often means death. The other danger associated with use of Laetrile results from the potential toxicity of the substance itself. Laetrile containg cyanide, one of the most toxic substances known. Some sources of Laetrile frequently publicized by its proponents are seeds or kernels which, when crushed, can release the cyanide. These sources include the the kernels of apricots, peaches and cherries. The scientific literature contains several reports of fatal and nonfatal poisonings due to eating apricot kernels. Because the margin of safety between a fatal and nonfatal dose is slight there is a distinct possibility that the reported cases of nonfatal poisonings may point to many more unrecognized fatal poisonings. Certainly, Laetrile is not a vitamin as its proponents have insisted….

“We were surprised and disappointed to see him (Kilpatrick) turn his attention to the defense of cancer quackery and wish he had shown greater objectivity by presenting the facts from both sides of the issue. As presented, his position on Laetrile is dead wrong. Sadly, cancer quackery is an unholy enterprise in which death bats last — and often.”

FDA piously claims not to have been involved in the Minnesota entrapment case. Mr. Fink of U.S. Cutsoms has already addressed himself to the FDA’s hypocrisy in this respect: true, he has said, FDA does not harass cancer patients, they have us do the harassing. Laetrile, the FDA says, prevents cancer patients from getting “early diagnosis and swift treatmeant,” adding that “cancer is a disease in which delay often means death.” Readers of DMR-1 — “Losing the War on Cancer: The ‘Awful Numbers’ Revisited” — are aware that the best evidence indicates that early detection confers no benefit and that, in fact, it may do just the opposite, exposing the cancer victim to the “proven” remedies which, in many cases, apparently kill him faster than the disease itself.

As for the “scientific literature” and its “several reports of fatal and nonfatal poisonings due to eating apricot kernels,” no deaths have ever been shown to have been caused by ingestion of apricot kernels in the United States — despite the fact that tens of thousands of people are taking one kernel for each ten pounds of body weight daily — as a cancer preventive — all across this country. The “scientific literature” attesting to the possibility of cyanide poisoning is almost non-existent. The two papers published in “reputable” journals that do exist both allude to two fatalaties in Ankara, Turkey, in 1957! Two children died after eating an undetermined number of apricot kernels and, the possibility was overwhelming, other substances in the piles of garbage they picked through. Meanwhile, it is reliably estimated that a minimum of 100 persons die each year in the U.S. alone because of overdoses or adverse reactions to aspirin.

Dr. Dean Burk, for years head of the cytochemistry division of the National Cancer Institute, says the only danger that might possibly arise from apricot kernels occurs when someone grinds up a quantity of them and then soaks them in water for several hours before eating them. Under those conditions enough cyanide might be released into the water to pose some threat of toxicity, he says. (Most people would never think of doing this in the first place, of course.) When chewed dry or taken in capsule form, however, the body’s chemistry protects against cyanide poisoning. The cyanide is locked up in a complex molecule and is released in the body either in quantities small enough not to cause illness but adequate to confer some measure of protection against cancer or is released only at the cancer cell site by the selective action of various enzymes.

The inhabitants of Hunza, northeast of Pakistan, include as a primary staple in their daily diets apricot kernels. Many Hunzakuts eat them by the dozens without apparent ill effect — throughout their entire lives. It is probably not true, as some Laetrilists have claimed, that there is no cancer in Hunza, but the incidence does appear to be very low. Areas in the Philippines and Indonesia where bitter cassava (also rich in amygdalin) is consumed in great quantities are also noted for very low cancer incidence.

Warning — Salt May Kill You


There have been two isolated court actions over the years in which Laetrile was declared “dangerous.” On both occasions, however, the courts reached this conclusion not on the basis of alleged toxicity but because the judges decided Laetrile might deter patients from obtaining orthodox “proven” treatments. Most researchers agree that Laetrile is remarkably non-toxic. By any standard it is benign, indeed, alongside the highly toxic approved chemotherapies.

One federal judge, Luther Bohanon of Oklahoma City, has repeatedly issued court orders allowing cancer patients who petitioned him to import Laetrile without interference from government agents. In one decision he ruled:

“The court finds from the record, testimony and exhibits that Laetrile is not lethal in anv sense of the word. It is not harmful to the human body, and when used in proper amounts under proper control and supervision can effect relief from cancer disease to the same satisfaction of many who are privileged to use the same.” At this writing, two other federal judges, reportedly, have just issued similar court orders.

Recently, despite all this, the California State Department of Health has proposed legislation stating “it shall be unlawful to sell, offer to sell, keep for sale, or otherwise distribute raw apricot kernels unless the bulk container and retail package bear the following label: ‘Warning: Apricot kernels contain significant quantities of cyanide. Their consumption can produce serious or fatal poisoning.”

Mike Culbert wonders if apples will soon carry similar warnings, required by law. And the National Health Federation, a non-profit consumer protection concern, is opposing the proposed legislation, observing that such labelling would be as ludicrous and unnecessary as this label attached to ordinary table salt: “Warning: Common table salt contains significant quantities of chlorine, and consumption can produce serious or fatal poisoning.”

“Overkill” is what Culbert calls it. Indulging in harassment of decent citizens, committing extra-legal and even illegal acts of entrapment and perjury, altering and manufacturing “evidence,” exaggerating dangers so preposterously that even the gullible lose faith in those making the claims — all of these things, Culbert says, “are helping us win.” What he says makes sense. I’m reminded of the “psychedelic sixties” when government researchers, politicians, town “fathers” and the like made alarmist pronouncements and indulged in scare tactics in an effort to get kids to leave marijuana and LSD alone. These substances, the younger generation was told, snapped chromosomes like they were toothpicks, were addictive, led to madness and worse. The kids tried the stuff and found out that what their elders were saying simply wasn’t true. Some did move on to the “harder” stuff, like heroin — not because they “needed” to but because they, logically, didn’t believe what the “experts” were saying about it, either. By exaggerating, either out of malice or ignorance or both, health authorities undermine their credibility and may thus actually encourage real quackery.

Another example of self-defeating overkill: In the wake of the San Diego indictments, two of those named were arrested at the California state capitol in Sacramento just as they were preparing to testify before a committee that was considering bills to legalize Laetrile. Somebody with an I.Q. that couldn’t possibly exceed the outdoor temperature in West Yellowstone, Montana, obviously thought it would help deflate the new legislative drive to legalize Laetrile by staging the arrests at the capitol itself. Dr. Richardson was collared and handcuffed as he walked toward the hearing room. Salaman was arrested when he came out of the hearing room.

Naturally many members of the Assembly were deeply offended by these heavy-handed tactics — which they saw, quite correctly, as an effort to interfere with the legislative process. Assemblyman William Campbell, chief sponsor of the new Laetrile legislation, comments: “Some of my colleagues who were opposed to the legislation said they were willing to take another look, as a result of those arrests.” The hearings will resume shortly.

A similar situation arose in the wake of the Schuster and Hanson entrapment. Senator Hubert Humphrey was so appalled by the circumstances of their arrests that he called for an investigation and asked the FDA to initiate new Laetrile studies.

“The Moscow Showcase Trial”


What looms ahead is what McNaughton calls “the Moscow showcase trial” in San Diego. He believes it may be the final piece of government overkill, that the public, which will have to foot what is expected to be a months-long multi-million dollar trial, will finally say, through their elected representatives, enough is enough, already. The cost of prosecuting 19 conspirators in a case as complex as this one is bound to be enormous. The government took 289 days and spent in excess of $4 million to prosecute four defendants in the Krebiozen “quackery” trial of the 1960s. And the government lost!

McNaughton, incidentally, went from Tijuana to San Diego and turned himself in voluntarily when he heard he had been indicted. He filed a financial statement with the court showing to the satisfaction of the judge that his liabilities far exceed his assets and was assigned a defense lawyer of considerable reputation at government expense. He was then released on his own recognizance and told he could travel between Mexico and California. When asked if he ever considered sitting it out in Mexico in order to avoid standing trial, as he could have, he replied:

“Not for a moment. I wouldn’t miss this for anything in the world.”

Assistant U.S. attorney Herb Hoffman, the federal prosecutor in the San Diego case, has said: “What is sad is to see people wasting their last nickel or dime in Mexico being hauled over dusty roads to clinics.” I’m keeping an open mind on Hoffman, for the time being. I do believe, however, that he has been misinformed on the efficacy issue. In a telephone conversation I asked him for his personal views on Laetrile and whether the efficacy issue would have any bearing on his handling of the case, which essentially deaIs with smuggling. His replies are encouraging.

He said that the prosecution of those indicted would be less than desirable if Laetrile works. “I mean,” he said, “I don’t think anybody in their right minds would try to suppress a legitimate cancer cure. From the people I’ve talked to and the evidence I’ve seen the conclusion is that Laetrile is worthless … But I’m not a doctor and I can’t really say.”

Hoffman seemed genuinely interested in my investigation of the various Laetrile studies and asiced me to send him a copy of my analysis (DMR-2). I have done that and intend to talk with him again about his reactions — all of which will be reported in a subsequent newsletter.

If he came to believe Laetrile has some effectiveness, would that have any influence on the case? “I think it would have,” he answered. “I’ve welcomed from all sources” whatever information was available. The pro-Laetrile material, he felt, was “too fanatical,” but he conceded that the other side could also be guilty of exaggerations and distortions.

Insanity or Conspiracy?


Culbert sees the San Diego trial as the anti-Laetrilist’s last hurrah. The tide is turning, he believes, in favor of those who advocate non-toxic, nutritional therapies. FDA’s authority to regulate vitamins and the like, rather than being strengthened as requested by FDA officials, has been substantially weakened by the recent passage of the Proxmire legislation. With court cases going against the goverment, Alaska specifically legalizing Laetrile and prominent and poimrful individuals such as Senator Humphrey practically endorsing Laetrile, there is little chance or no chance, Culbert says, that the FDA will get a federal law prohibiting Laetrile’s use. “If necessary,” he adds, “we will put Alaska-type legislation in every state in the union.” Such legislation is already pending in some half a dozen states.

Meanwhile, he muses over the harassment which, at the moment, seems to be intensifying mightily. “On the face of it,” he says, “the degree of repression doesn’t make sense, especially in a place like Berkeley where, my God, everybody is turned on to marijuana and cocaine and you can score for anything, including heroin, any hour of the day. The feds and the state of California aren’t deploying all of those agents, all of that time, money and energy to crack down on things that are dangerous. No, it’s all or most of it reserved for Laetrile. It really doesn’t make sense unless you’re dealing with insanity or conspiracy. I’m guessing it’s conspiracy, which means money. The big drug companies aren’t competing with heroin in any substantial way. Heroin isn’t threatening to put anybody out of business.

“This is the first time unorthodoxy has seized the initiative, and I think they, whoever they turn out to be, are panic-stricken, because, of course, this doesn’t stop with cancer. Laetrile opens the door to countless other nutritional, metabolic therapies which are equally non-toxic and useful in a wide range of other diseases of faulty metabolism.” And like Laetrile, he adds, those other therapies are natural in origin and largely in the public domain.

“It’s going to be interesting,” he concludes, “to see the final time, place and manner of the decriminalization of Laetrile. It’s coming. I think the government will finally just steal it, put another name on it and make sure that Krebs and McNaughton get none of the credit.”

To that, McNaughton adds: “I wish they’d hurry up.”

Culbert’s words are echoed in part by George Kell, the constitutional attorney who has successfully defended more than a dozen individuals involved in Laetrile treatment or distribution. “It’s coming,” he says; “This momentary legal stalemate in California is nothing. Nothing is born without blood, and we’re in the final paroxysm. This is a food, and the word is getting out. The Mexican border will not be shut, so the clinics are here to stay. The more the U.S. government tries to suppress it, the more people will want to investigate it.”

Short Takes


An Apricot Kernel By Any Other Name…


Mike Culbert has predicted that “the government will finally just steal it (Laetrile), put another name on it and make sure that Krebs and McNaughton get none of the credit.” There is considerable excitement these days in very orthodox circles over something called 13-cis-retinoic acid. The National Cancer Institute has gone so far as to suggest that this substance might be quite effective as a cancer preventive. It turns out that 13-cis-retinoic acid is a fancy name for Vitamin A; it is a synthetic vitamin A analogue. God knows the government isn’t about to promote a vitamin (you get those in your food) but a synthetic analogue — that’s another matter. Well, it turns out that the much maligned apricot kernel is loaded with absisic acid, which is very much like retinoic acid. Preliminary tests of absisic acid indicate that it may be a powerful anti-cancer agent. Some other “quack” cancer remedies have a great deal of vitamin A and vitamin A analogues in them, too, it turns out: the wheat grass remedy, the Gerson diet, etc. DMR-6 will explore these fascinating “coincidences” — and a good deal more.

Published Papers on Laetrile


It is repeatedly claimed that the Laetrilists have never published any data in “respectable” journals demonstrating the substance’s efficacy in humans. Apart from the Mexican studies which will soon appear, there have been several other reports published in internationally respected journals over the years. Dr. Manuel Navarro, professor of medicine and surgery at the University of Santo Tomas in Manilla and a Fellow of the Philippine Society of Endocrinology, has published over 100 scientific papers and has read many of them before the International Cancer Congress. His paper “Five Years Experience with Laetrile Therapy in Advanced Cancer” was delivered at the Symposium on Cancer Chemotherapy of the International Union Against Cancer in Tokyo and published in Acta Unio Internationalis Contra Cancrum, XV: 209-221, 1959, a journal to which every major medical school in the world subscribes. Another of his Laetrile papers, read before the Seventh International Cancer Congress in London, was also published in Acta. Yet another was read before the Eighth International Cancer Congress in Moscow.

“Preliminary Observations on Cancer Patients Treated with Laetrile” was presented by Dr. Ettore Guidetti, professor of pharmacology at the University of Turin (Italy) Medical School, at the Sixth International Cancer Congress in Sao Paulo and also subsequently published in Acta. Dr. Ettore, in collaboration with Drs. Bendetto Rossi and Christian Decker later presented a paper called “Clinical Trial of Chemotherapeutic Treatment of Advanced Cancers with 1-Mandelonitrile-Beta Diglucoside (Laetrile)” at the Ninth International Cancer Congress in Tokyo in which they conclude that Laetrile should be “considered an extremely useful chemotherapeutic drug for palliative medical treatment of malignant neoplasms, from the standpoint of its therapeutic effect and its very low toxicity.”

Articles on the efficacy of Laetrile in human cancers have also been published by researchers in West and East Germany. The lack of articles on Laetrile’s efficacy in humans in the United States has been attributed by Laetrile advocates to the repressive atmosphere that prevails here vis a vis the substance. Doctors who treat patients with Laetrile in this country have been subject to arrest and harassment from medical boards; some have had their licenses suspended. To publish, they argue persuasively, would be to invite ruin.

One U.S. doctor did publish his results in a reputable medical journal, but that was in 1962 — one year before intensive attacks on Laetrile were launched in California and elsewhere. Dr. John Morrone died shortly after his paper, “Chemotherapy of Inoperable Cancer: Preliminary Report of Ten Cases Treated with Laetrile,” was published in Experimental Medicine and Surgery (No. 4, 1962). Dr. Morrone was a well-thought-of, board-certified surgeon. He selected for his pilot study 10 individuals with inoperable, metastasized cancers of the sort that most clinicians would regard as terminal. There were five men and five women. There were four cases of adenocarcinoma of the breast, three cases of Hodgkin’s disease, one case of lung cancer, one case of prostate cancer and one case of cancer of the pancreas. All 10 suffered persistent pain; seven required narcotic pain killers. All patients got an average of 30 Laetrile injections (one to two grams at a time) over an average of 17 weeks.

Here are some of the results, as reported by Dr. Morrone: “Dramatic relief of pain resulted in all 10 cases after the first or second slow intravenous injection and continued throughout the course of treatment. In five cases pain disappeared completely and in the other five it was definitely reduced. Narcotics were discontinued in five of the seven cases in which they were used. After seven injections the fetor from an ulcerating adenocarcinoma of the breast disappeared and the discharge ceased… It would appear that Laetrile injections cause a regression of the malignant lesion. More cases and a follow-up are required to evaluate the degree and permanence of this result….Comparison of before and after hemograms showed definite improvement in the red blood cell count and hemoglobin in most cases.”

Here is a typical case history, presented by Dr. Morrone:

“F.E., age 17, male, single, student, weight 140 lb., height 71 in., blood pressure 110/70. Diagnosis Hodgkin’s disease, granuloma type, with metastasis to thorax.

“During the last three months a growing mass in the left supraclavicular region had reached the size of a quarter sphere of an average orange. The patient complained of pain in both axillae, weakness, nausea and anorexia. He had lost 25 lb. and was jaundiced. Biopsy confirmed the diagnosis. The axillary lymph glands were enlarged, especially on the right side. The roentgenograms showed progressive nodal enlargement inside the thorax.

“Laetrile 1 gm. was injected intravenously. In five minutes the systolic blood pressure dropped 6 mm. but there were no apparent other effects.

“On examination two days later the mass in the neck was softer and smaller. By the fifth day it was reduced to about half the original size, and was softer and movable. The axillary lymph glands were barely palpable. He was free from pain and his appetite had returned.

“In a period of five months he received 36 injections of Laetrile, 19 of one gm. and 17 of two gm. There were no side effects.

“During the period of treatment there was no pain and no enlargement of supraclavicular mass occurred. Appetite improved and the patient gained 24 lb. He returned to his studies. Comparison of before and after hemograms showed distinct improvement in the red blood cell count and hemoglobin.”

Why Not a Grant to “Prove” the ACS Is Great?


American Cancer Scrciety has grants up for grabs “to fund research aimed at discovering why people seek help from cancer quacks.” Also “to fund studies proving the importance of early detection.” And there are those who persist in believing that the ACS is a scientific organization!

“You Could Have a Bad Fall”


The occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has been coming under increasing fire for soft-peddling the dangers of various carcinogens in the nation’s industries. But while factory workers are left to fend for themselves, OSHA has shown its concern for the farmers of the land in a series of pamphlets that cost half a million dollars to produce. These pamphlets contain such advice as: “Hazards are one of the main causes of accidents.” They counsel cattlemen to “speak softly to cows” and warn that “when floors are wet and slippery with manure, you could have a bad fall” and “be careful that you do not fall into manure pits…these pits are very dangerous.”

Earl Butz Speaks/Reporter Barfs


Write to Earl Butz these days — about anything — and what you’ll get back is a copy of a speech the Secretary delivered before the Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting in Anaheim California, June 6, 1976; the speech is called “America, The Great Food Machine.” In this speech Butz calls the Delaney Clause to the Food Additive Amendment (which says that no carcinogens may be added to foods) “one of the worst legislative additives of all times.” He goes on to say: “The ironic thing is that the food faddists and extremists are fretting and stewing about the safest and most nutritious food supply the world has ever known — and to make it even more absurd, food additives and modern processing are the factors helping provide that safety.” Butz even lauds the “addition of nitrites to meats and fish,” which he claims has “helped control the threat of sudden death by botulism.” Nitrites have been firmly established as potent carcinogens — and there are other, simpler, less expensive ways of protecting against botulism which, in any event, is not the reason nitrites are added to meats. Butz blows on and on about how kids today are eating processed foods loaded with additives and that they are just getting bigger and stronger all the time. What he fails to point out is that they are keeling over from heart attacks and getting cancer at even earlier agese The American male at age 40 has a life expectancy much lower than males of the same age in many other countries. “If our current food supply is not nutritious and delicious,” Butz asks, “how come we see so many people overweight from eating it?”

Checking In With Helene (“You’ve Terribly Misquoted Me Before”) Brown


In DMR-1 I reported that Helene Brown, former chairman of the board of the American Cancer Society in California and now project director of Community Cancer Control in Los Angeles, preposterously stated on one occasion that “there are now ten kinds of cancer which can be cured or controlled by chemotherapy” and, on another, made the even more astounding assertion that “present medical knowledge makes it possible to cure 70 percent of all cancers, if they are detected early.” One cancer researcher calls Helene Brown “the Martha Mitchell of the cancer establishment.” Ms. Brown is not only in the habit of making optimistic pronouncements about the ACS’s war on cancer which cannot in any way be supported by the facts (“hope apparently springs eternal in Ms. Brown’s unmastectomized bosom,” I wrote in DMR-1) but she is also bent upon destroying the “quacks” and their fellow-travellers. In DMR-2 I reported that Ms. Brown claimed that Daniel S. Greenberg, who wrote a landmark piece documenting the exaggerations of the cancer establishment for the Columbia Journalism Review (January/February 1975), had recanted. She told medical students at Hahnemann Medical College that “we talked to Greenberg” in San Francisco and he took back most of what he said. She claimed he’d used phoney statistics. Greenberg responded by saying he’d taken nothing back and had never even heard of Helene Brown.

Not long ago I gave Ms. Brown a call on the telephone. She pretended at first not to know who I was. Then suddenly she remembered. “You’ve terribly misquoted me before in articles that you have already written,” she declared. I asked her for an example. “One quote you attributed to me you took from True Magazine who (sic) had misquoted in the first place.” Which quote was that, I asked. “I forget,” she said. I prodded. “Yeah, as a matter of fact it was the quote which had to do with my saying it’s goddamn quackery.” (“Laetrile is goddamn quackery.”) I pointed out that I quoted her thus not from True but from Today’s Health, which was then published by the American Medical Association. I asked her if the AMA had misquoted her. “What can I do for you?” she responded.

And thus began one of the most puzzling conversations of my life. It starts out, on my part at least, reasonably enough. I explain that I began investigating Laetrile as a skeptic and that, as I began to examine the available data firsthand, I came to believe that Laetrile has some efficacy. (Ms. Brown’s response was to correct my slight, momentary mispronunciation of the word “efficacy.” I pointed out that she was being a bit petty. She countered, irrelevantly, with “what’s your question?” — a refrain that would punctuate her conversation at odd and inappropriate moments throughout our exchange.) Disconcerted but undaunted I pressed on. Ms. Brown said she had read DMRs 1 and 2 and as for my views on Laetrile: “Well, for the most part I don’t think you have a good enough understanding of cancer or anything else because I think you were way off base, but as I say, I just haven’t got time to go into it today, David.” I press her. “I can’t go into it now; I really can’t.” She suggests I call her back in three weeks. I say, fine, but in the meantime I will have to say she was too busy to comment. “That’s right,” she responds, “but only on the topic of your article that was sent to me from the Patterson Foundation (DMR-2).” In other words, apparently, she has all day to talk about something else — and shortly proves it by suddenly launching into an utterly unsolicited and irrelevant conversation on mammography. Our conversation goes on for 40 or more minutes after she tells me that she hasn’t time to talk with me.

Finally I pull the conversation back to her assertion that I am unqualified to discuss Laetrile. I ask her about her own background. Is she a doctor? No. Does she have a medical background. “No, I’m a health educator and I have worked in the field of cancer for the past 25 years.” Does she hold an advanced degree. No. She has a bachelor’s degree in education. She is obviously unhappy about this line of questioning. She interrupts me to say: “Now you have to understand that when you ask somebody about that because (sic) I’m afraid of the way you might slant things.” Why? “There are a lot of things I’m afraid of. I’m afraid of the way I walk across the street.” (No comment from me.) “I’m afraid of the way things get slanted. And I’ve had enough experience talking to people where my word does get slanted.”

I point out that the only reason I’m asking her about her background is because she has questioned my competence to discuss Laetrile. “I never said a word about your competence to write,” she says, and I quickly cut in with: “You most certainly did.” She denies it again. I quote back to her what she said. She is obviously stymied when I say, “We are getting into a semantical trap here, aren’t we?” “We certainly are,” she says, “and I’m going to call an end to this conversation. This is what I get into sometimes with some of the journalists that (sic) write on this topic. You’re not fair. You’re not being at all fair, David.”

She is ready to hang up on me. I quickly say, “Well, I’m giving you an opportunity to answer some of the criticisms that have been levelled against you.” Another time, she says. “What about the Greenberg thing, for example?” I ask. “Where you told the medical students at Hahnemann that Greenberg had retracted some of his statements or most of them.”

“You show me that quote and you tell me when and where I said it and I’ll be happy to talk to you about it,” she says angrily. “Well,” I say, “I’ve got three people who say you said it.” “Which Greenberg are you talking about? Oh, you mean Daniel Greenberg; oh, yes, that’s very well recorded. He had an (sic) symposium up in San Francisco and if you would like to check with the San Francisco office of the American Cancer Society they may have a transcript of it.”

“You met with him in person?” I ask, since that was the impression she gave the medical students in question.

“Noooo, I did not. I did not. He met with a group of scientists and a group of writers in San Francisco and he had a great deal to say that was not exactly what he said in his article. I did not say he retracted. I said he had a different view when he spoke in San Francisco that what his article indicates.” I tell her that the medical students say she used the phrase “phoney statistics” and that Greenberg took back almost everything he wrote, according to her. “No, that’s absolutely incorrect.”

Okay. So it’s her word against at least three medical students’ word. But she’s still claiming that Greenberg took a substantially different view in San Francisco, soft peddling his earlier stand. So I called Greenberg for an explanation. It turns out he was a speaker on a panel at the UC Medical School in San Francisco. “We got around to the subject of cancer statistics,” Greenberg recalls, “and there was someone there from the cancer tumor registry in California and he raised some serious questions about the validity of the collection techniques that NCI uses for its statistics and he based his criticisms, which seemed rather sensible, on his own experiences in California. And I said that if the system is as defective as he says it is in pulling the numbers together then perhaps some serious questions could be raised about the accuracy of the National Cancer Institute’s End Resultsstatistics.”

Now, this is very interesting, because I happen to know about the guy from the Tumor Registry; I also know about his analysis of the statistical gathering system. He has found, as he pointed out that day in San Francisco, that the errors that are being committed tend to make things look a lot better than they really are, i.e., they make it look as though we’re not losing the war on cancer quite as badly as we really are. Greenberg used the NCI’s End Results figures (the official “body counts” in this war) to show how grim the situation is. Now it turns out that it’s even grimmer. There are some phoney statistics floating around all right, but they aren’t Greenberg’s. Yet, somebody intent on committing a very big lie could say that Greenberg had admitted to using “phoney” statistics — eventhough the someone saying that would be in the very camp that produced and endorsed those statistics!

Well, I could go on and on with the Helene Brown “interview,” but a couple more passages will probably suffice. At one point we were discussing the Southern Research Institute’s study of Laetrile. I point out that several biostatisticians have questioned the validy of the SRI data. I name them. She says that she knows many who have supported the SRI analysis. I ask her to name them. “I have no time to go into that now,” she says, after we have been talking for more than half an hour. I press for the names, “I don’t really care to bring them into the picture at this moment,” she says.

At another point we are talking about the idea that a doctor ought to have the freedom to use Laetrile if he so chooses, given the fact that it is widely recognized to be non-toxic. “Well, of course,” she says, “we don’t really have freedom of choice in an awful lot of what we do in America because that’s the way we’ve chosen it.”

Received in New York on September 13, 1976

David M. Rorvik, a freelance writer, is an Alicia Patterson Foundation award winner. He is studying the politics of cancer research in the United States and elsewhere. This article may be published with credit to Mr. Rorvik as a Fellow of the Alicia Patterson Foundation. The views expressed by the author in this newsletter are not necessarily the views of the Foundation.