[back] Dr Richardson

Dr. Richardson vs FDA

[Extract] World Without Cancer by Edward Griffin  pp. 322-327

Consequently, Dr. Richardson was well informed about the the nature of the forces arrayed against him. While others in the Laetrile movement tried to "enlighten" the FDA to its error in hopes that it would change its position, he knew they were wasting their time. While others circulated petitions requesting the FDA to grant permission for further testing of Laetrile, he said: "Get the FDA out of it altogether." While others were stunned at the blatantly unfair treatment given to them by the TV producers at NBC, he was surprised only that it wasn't worse. And while others instructed their attorneys to find some legal technicality to avoid a full confrontation with the law, Dr. Richardson sought ways to test the constitutionality of the law itself.

Dr. Richardson was arrested on June 2,1972, for violating the California FDA's "anti-quackery" lawówhich means that he was charged with using Laetrile in the treatment of cancer. Armed officials burst into his office and, in the presence of patients (as well as news photographers whom the FDA had tipped off to cover the arrest), they handcuffed him and his two nurses and hauled them off to jail like dangerous criminals. The office was ransacked and Dr. Richardson's personal files and correspon≠dence were seized. Patients in need of medical treatment were sent home. One child with advanced cancer of the leg died shortly afterward. It is possible that the death could have been prevented had it not been for the interruption of treatment and the child's psychological trauma resulting from the raid.

Dr. Richardson's legal battle for medical freedom was long and costly. In May of 1974, after two years of litigation and two trialsóboth of which resulted in hung juriesóthe judge advised the food and drug authorities that they had failed to prove their case and that, consequently, all charges against Dr. Richardson were dismissed.

The battle, however, was not over. Thwarted in court, the California FDA began to contact Richardson's patients hoping to find one or two who were not satisfied with their treatment. The plan was to convince them to instigate law suites against the doctorówith the government covering all the legal costs.

Most doctors have dissatisfied patients who would be interested in this kind of an offer. Doctor Richardson, however, was not one of them. Every patient contacted told the government agents to go fly a kite. Finally, the father of one patient, Dorothy Soroka, was recruited for this purpose. He had been telling his daughter all along that Laetrile was quackery. The law suit was dropped, however, when Dorothy herself was called to testify. Not only did she staunchly defend her treatment but, much to the chagrin of the prosecutors, her health had continued to improve.

The action against the Richardson Clinic up until that time had been carried out by the California FDA. After they had struck out for the third time, it was time for the federal FDA to step in. Dr. Richardson describes what happened next:

In February of 1975, United States marshals in Minnesota, Alabama, Washington, Wisconsin, and Oregon seized shipments of Laetrile to patients who had come to our clinic and who since had returned to their homes to continue therapy on a maintenance level. I knew then that the primary purpose of such seizures was to prove that my shipments had crossed state lines which, theoretically, put me into interstate commerce and, thus, under the regulatory author≠ity of the federal government. I soon learned, however, that there was another purpose behind this action as well. It was to mire me in a tar pit of legal requirements.
    From each state where Laetrile had been seized, I received subpoenas to appear in those states to defend myself against a laundry list of charges for alleged crimes. It was required that I retain a separate attorney in each state, that I travel to each for trial, and that I participate in endless hearings and interrogatories. It was a lawyer's paradise but, for me, a nightmare. I couldn't afford it either in money or time. I was, after all, only one man against the forces of the federal government and the state governments combined. They literally have high-rise office buildings filled with lawyers and agents living at taxpayers' expense. Money and time are no object to them.
    At about this same time, the IRS moved into my office and began pouring over my books, determined to find errors and discrepancies. We had paid heavily for our 1971-72 audit previously. Now a completely arbitrary and unjust assessment of $19,000 was made against me for 1973, without benefit of audit. I contested this and the IRS agreed before appropriate witnesses that I could place the questioned sum in escrow pending a tax-court hearing. My position was vindicated a year later when, after a thorough review, I actually received a $1,800 refund for overpayment of 1973 taxes. In the meantime, however, Dennis Connover from the IRS Collection Division ignored our prior agreement and became determined to deliver the killing blow. I was threatened with a lien against my home and I had come to within just ten days of the date on which it was to be issued.
    The federal noose was tightening, and for the first time I began to think that I had been beaten.

It took several more years for the story to play out but, in the end, Dr. Richardson's premonition was correct. In 1976, he was scheduled to testify before the California Legislative Health Committee on behalf of a bill to legalize Laetrile. As hi1 approached the hearing room, he was seized by plainclothes agents, handcuffed, and hauled off to jail. That was the beginning of a lengthy federal trial on charges of "conspiracy" to smuggle Laetrile. The doctor had never been involved with smuggling but he had purchased Laetrile from suppliers who could not prove they had imported the substance legally. Since he didn't ask his suppliers to produce import papers, it was alleged that he must have known the medication was smuggled. Therefore, when he purchased the Laetrile for his patients, he was said to have "conspired" with the smugglers. The government eventually obtained a conviction on the basis of this astounding reasoning.
While this trial was being conducted, the FDA sent the following letter to the California Board of Medical Examiners:

    The FDA charges that Dr. Richardson has been and is engaged in conduct prohibited by law, unfounded in science, and without medical justification. We submit that such conduct is unethical and unprofessional, particularly so when it furthers the distribution of a remedy that has no established value, the promotion of which is fraud on the public. We call the Board's particular attention to the unresponsible and dangerous advice on the treatment of cancer in which Dr. Richardson urges patients to delay surgery and to avoid radiation treatment in favor of treatment with Laetrile. This advice, if followed, has an obvious potential for disastrous consequences.
    For these reasons, the Food and Drug Administration respectfully urges that this Board revoke Dr. Richardson's license to practice medicine.

1.             Richardson and Griffin, op. cit., pp. 85,86
2.             Letter dated July 22, 1975, signed by Carl M. Leventhal, M.D., Deputy Director, for J. Richard Cront, M.D., Director, Bureau of Drugs, FDA; Griffin, Private Papers, op. cit.

The hearings before the Board of Medical Examiners in San Francisco were scheduled to be held concurrently with the trial in San Diego for "conspiracy" to smuggle. Both actions were orchestrated by the FDA. Since Dr. Richardson was required to be in court, it was impossible for him to attend the hearings to defend himself. It likely would have made little difference if he had. The hearings were like Stalin's show trials. The results had been decreed; only the process remained. On October 28, 1976, the Board issued its decision:

Respondent utilized Laetrile and Pangamic Acid [vitamin B15] as therapeutic agents in the treatment of cancer. Laetrile and Pangamic Acid are not recognized vitamins in human nutrition. Laetrile has no known nutritional value and is unsafe for self-medication....
    The management of cancer patients with Laetrile, Pangamic Acid, and vitamins, as prescribed by respondent, as the sole treatment of choice by the physician, to the exclusion of the aforementioned conventional modalities is an extreme departure from the standard practice of medicine....
Certificate number G-2848 of John A. Richardson, M.D., respondent above-named, is revoked. [1]

1. "Decision in the matter of the accusation against John A. Richardson, M.D., before the Board of Medical Quality Assurance, Division of Medical Quality for the State of California," Oct. 28,1976, pp. 4, 5,11.

Dr. Richardson eventually closed his thriving practice in Albany, California, and affiliated with a well-known clinic in Tijuana, Mexico, where he was able to continue treating cancer patientsóand saving lives. He passed away in December of 1988.

There are many other courageous men who have walked the highest wire. Dr. Ernst Krebs, the co-discoverer of Laetrile, was sent to prison for providing Pangamic Acid (vitamin B15) as an adjunctive therapy in the treatment of cancer. Dr. James Privitera, M.D., from Covina, California, served time in prison for an alleged "conspiracy to sell Laetrile." Dr. Bruce Halstead, M.D., from Loma Linda, California, another Laetrile advocate, lost his medical license for using the "unproven" herbal called ADS (Aqua Del Sol) as an enhancement to the immune system. Dr. Douglas Brodie from Reno, Nevada, another Laetrile specialist, served time in prison, allegedly for "income-tax evasion." And then there is Dr. Philip Binzel, M.D., from Washington Court House, Ohio, who was featured in a previous chapter. Although at the time of this writing he has not lost his license or served time in prison, he has spent a major portion of the last decade of his life in court fighting the cancer industry. The battle never ends.

The details of this sordid record of injustice have been included in the previous passages in the hope that they will allow the reader to experience some of the frustration and rage that these doctors have felt. Dr. Richardson summed it up this way:

The average person, secure in his home and livelihood, never having felt the crushing attack of literally hundreds of tax-supported lawyers, unthreatened by a prison sentence for merely doing what he knows is right, such a person simply cannot understand the logic of a wounded bear....
    When Nazi war criminals were accused of genocide, they defended themselves on the basis that they were just following orders and obeying the laws of the Nazi state. The civilized world cried out: "Guilty!" Man is expected to respond to a higher law than that of any state. When the laws of one's government require a man to condemn innocent people to death, he must reject those laws and stand with his conscience. If he does not, then he is no different from the Nazis who were hanged for war crimes.
    In the present battle, we do not even have the passion of war to justify our behavior. Yet, in the last few years more people have died needlessly of cancer than all the casualties of all our wars put together.
    How much suffering and death are the American people willing to take before they stand up to the bureaucracy? How many physicians must be put into prison before all physicians cry "enough!" to the increasing government control over their profes≠sion? How many Watergates do we need before we realize that mortal men are corrupted by power, and that the solutions to one's problems lie not in increasing the power of government but in decreasing it?
    The spirit of resistance is in the air. It is a refreshing breeze, but it gives me great hope. I have resolved to stand alone if need to. But, as I write these final words, I can't help but wonder, is there any one else out there?  [1] 

1.   Richardson and Griffin, op. cit, pp. 114, 115.