The Case For Laetrile (Amygdalin/Vitamin B17)

In the Preface to his book Alive and Well (1994) Dr. Philip E. Binzel writes: “The facts in this book are true. The names are real (except where I say they are not). The dates may not be completely accurate, but they are as close as I can remember.”

Chapter One: Case Dismissed

It was early December, 1977. My office girl, Ruthie Coe, called me on my intercom to tell me that I had a phone call from a Mr. Robert Bradford in California. She wanted to know if I wanted to take the call now or to call him back. I had known Bob Bradford for about three years. He was the head of an organization known as The Committee for Freedom of Choice in Cancer Therapy. I had done several seminars on nutrition with him. I told Ruthie that I would take the call now.

Bob told me that the Food and Drug Administration (The FDA) had filed suit in Federal Court to prohibit the importation of Laetrile into this country because it was toxic. He said that he had found an eminent toxicologist, Dr. Bruce Halstead, who was willing to testify against the FDA, but he also needed a practicing physician who had used Laetrile and wanted to know if I would testify. I told him I would. Bob told me that the hearing would be in Oklahoma City in the court of Judge Luther Bohanon in about ten or twelve days.

I called our local travel agency and asked them to get airplane reservations for my wife, Betty, and me. I knew without talking to her that Betty would not want to miss out on the fun! The girl from the travel agency called me back in a few minutes. She said that she had no problem getting us a flight into Oklahoma City, but a big problem getting us out of Oklahoma City. The hearing was, I believe, to be on a Thursday. I wanted to arrive sometime on Wednesday afternoon. Not knowing how long the hearing would take on Thursday, I thought that if we planned to leave on Friday morning, that would work out well. The problem with the airlines was that the University of Oklahoma and all the colleges around the area were starting their Christmas vacation on that Friday. There were no seats available on any airline going in our direction until the following Monday. The last plane leaving Oklahoma City going in our direction that had any space was a three o’clock flight on Thursday afternoon. I took those reservations.

Betty and I flew out of Columbus, Ohio to St. Louis. There we changed to a flight to Oklahoma City. On our flight to Oklahoma City (coach, of course), I noticed that there were only three men flying first class. At that time, I don’t think the word “clone” had been invented. If it had, these three men certainly could have been described as clones of each other. They were all about the same height, weight, hair color, and all had the same haircut. They all had the same sallow complexion, wore the same black suits and maroon ties, and they all carried the same type of briefcase.
Early the next morning Bob Bradford, Dr. Halstead, Betty and I met with the attorney, Mr. Ken Coe, (no relation to my office girl, Ruthie Coe). I told Mr. Coe of our predicament with our airline schedule. He assured me that he would discuss this with the Judge and do whatever he could to help.

While we were sitting there, Mr. Coe received a phone call. It seems that there had been a young girl in New York who, some months before, had gotten hold of a bottle of Laetrile pills belonging to her father and had taken an unknown quantity of these. She was taken to a hospital and a number of blood tests were done over the next two days. The girl exhibited no symptoms, but, for whatever reason, on the third day the doctors decided to give her the antidote to cyanide. The girl died the following day.

From what I know, the FDA had contacted the girl’s mother and wanted her to testify about the toxicity of Laetrile. She had refused but said, instead, that she would testify against the FDA. She had flown out of New York early that Thursday morning and was due to arrive in Oklahoma City about nine o’clock. It was she who was calling to let us know that about two or three hundred miles out of New York someone on the plane had a heart attack. The plane turned around and went back to New York. She was not going to be able to get to Oklahoma City. Mr. Coe said, “We’ll go with what we’ve got.”

We arrived in the court room shortly before nine o’clock. The first thing that I noticed were the three “clones” I had seen on the airplane the day before. They were the FDA attorneys. Why were there three of them? A friend of mine explained that to me sometime later. He said that, in case they lose, each attorney always puts the blame on the other two! The thing that bothered me the most was that Betty and I had to pay our own air fare, and we flew coach. My taxes were paying their air fare, and they flew first class.

Judge Bohanon entered the court room. Mr. Coe, as promised, immediately asked for and received permission to approach the bench. He explained to the Judge the problem that Betty and I had with airline reservations. Judge Bohanon very kindly agreed to change the usual procedure and to allow the defense to present its case first.

I testified first. Responding to Mr. Coe’s questions, I stated that I had used Laetrile both by mouth and by intravenous injection on several hundred patients, and that I had not experienced any toxic reaction in any of those patients. On cross-examination the FDA attorney asked me if I was familiar with the term “agmpxyztpwrquos” (or something like that). I said, “No.” He then asked if I was familiar with the term “mvchrtonlxty” (or something like that). Again, I said, “No.” I was then dismissed from the witness stand. To this day, I do not know the meaning of the two terms. The FDA attorney never gave the definitions. I had never heard the terms before and have never heard them since. I am not sure that they didn’t just make up two terms to see if I would bite.

Dr. Halstead then took the stand. He carried with him a book which he put in his lap. Under direct questioning from Mr. Coe, Dr. Halstead explained how all substances known to man can be toxic. He showed that while some oxygen is necessary to maintain life, too much oxygen can be fatal. He went through the same procedure with water, salt, and other substances. He then showed that aspirin, sugar and salt were, milligram-for-milligram, more toxic than Laetrile. He further pointed out that chemotherapeutic agents which are commonly used in the treatment of cancer are, milligram-for-milligram, hundreds of times more toxic than Laetrile.

On cross-examination, the FDA attorney asked Dr. Halstead to give the toxicity figure for some substance (I don’t remember what the substance was). Dr. Halstead said, pointing to the book in his lap but never opening it, “On page 311, Table 2, in this book you will find that the toxicity of that substance is …. “(whatever it was). The FDA attorney then named another substance and asked for its toxicity figure. Dr. Halstead answered, “On page 419, Table 3 shows it to be …. “(whatever it was). The attorney tried a third time. Again, Dr. Halstead came up with the page number, table number and toxicity.

The three FDA attorneys-stared at each other for a minute, then one of them said, “How do you know all of this?” Dr. Halstead calmly replied, “Because I wrote the book.” “Impossible!” yelled the attorney. Without saying a word, Dr. Halstead took the book from his lap and handed it to Judge Bohanon. The Judge opened the book to its first page and read the following, “Textbook of Toxicology, written by Dr. Bruce Halstead, as commissioned by the Food and Drug Administration of the United States.” The Judge said to the FDA attorneys, “You fellows should have known that. You didn’t do your homework very well.” The FDA attorneys had enough of Dr. Halstead. They dismissed him from the stand.

When Mr. Coe informed Judge Bohanon that the defense had concluded its testimony, the Judge turned to the FDA attorneys and said, “The court is now prepared to hear your witnesses and view your evidence.” One FDA attorney replied, “Your Honor, we don’t have any.” The rest of the dialogue went like this:
Judge: “You are telling me that you have filed suit in this court that Laetrile is toxic, and you don’t have a single witness or a shred of evidence to support such a suit?” Attorney: “That is correct, Your Honor.” Judge: “Then why have you filed such a suit?”

Attorney: “Because, Your Honor, Laetrile may be dangerous.”
Judge: “Dangerous to whom?”
Attorney: “Dangerous to the Federal Government, Your Honor.”
Judge: “How could Laetrile possibly be dangerous to the Federal Government?”
Attorney: “Because, Your Honor, the Government may lose control.“(Bold and underscoring mine.)

With this the Judge, now obviously angered, slammed down his gavel and said, “Case dismissed!”

As Mr. Coe, Dr. Halstead, Bob Bradford, Betty and I left the court house, we saw a six-foot by four-foot poster on the wall in the lobby. It read in large letters, “BEWARE OF LAETRILE! IT IS TOXIC!” At the bottom, in small print, was the statement, “Must be posted in all Government buildings by order of the Food and Drug Administration of the United States.”

Is it possible that the FDA was lying to the people?

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