Vale, a New Yorker and former arm-wrestling champion, used apricot
seeds to cure his own cancer and then began selling them on the
Internet, along with injectable laetrile. It does sound ludicrous at
first, but the idea has been around since the fifties, and the
medical profession has been ridiculing it and trying to stamp it out
for just as long, without success. Apricot seeds contain a cyanide
compound that targets cancer cells.
Vale’s case, at least, the FDA sent him warning letters. He
subsequently signed a consent decree saying he would stop, but he
continued selling. He was tried for violating the consent decree,
convicted, and sentenced to five years and three months. With time
served and good behavior, it could be about half that.
to one report of the sentencing, the judge said he didn’t believe
the numerous letters he had received, in which satisfied customers
of Vale’s claimed the apricot seeds had “saved them,” and that
some letters were “over the top” in alleging an
FDA–pharmaceutical industry conspiracy. Although Vale’s
conviction was for violating the consent decree, his imprisonment is
ultimately a result of selling apricot seeds as a cure for cancer.
Vale’s conviction in 2003, the FDA issued a press release, which
quotes then FDA commissioner Mark McClellan: “The FDA takes
seriously its responsibility to protect patients from unproven
products being peddled on the internet by modern day snake oil
salesmen such as the defendant in this case. There is no scientific
evidence that Laetrile offers anything but false hope to cancer
patients.” The press release also quotes prosecuting U.S. attorney
Roslynn Mauskopf: “This office will not tolerate any disregard for
the lawful orders of this Court. Nor will it tolerate fraud,
especially when it foists dangerous products on a vulnerable
sanctimonious, Soviet-style pronouncements merely repeat the
conventional line about laetrile. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer
Center (MSKCC) in New York, the nation’s largest cancer treatment
facility, has claimed for decades (and still claims, on its web
site) that “research has demonstrated only the absence of
beneficial effect” for apricot seeds, otherwise known as amygdalin, laetrile, and vitamin B17.
Ralph Moss, Ph.D., who was assistant director of public affairs at
MSKCC for five years in the mid-seventies, noticed during his time
there that the institution’s claim about laetrile’s
ineffectiveness contradicted what its own research showed. When he
pointed this out, he was fired.
went on to write books about alternative approaches to cancer and
other health problems, pointing out the substantial representation
of pharmaceutical, petrochemical, and automotive industry executives
on the MSKCC boards of directors and managers. He cites this as the
reason for MSKCC’s persistent lack of interest in natural remedies
for cancer (which would conflict with the pharmaceutical
industry’s agenda) or environmental causes of cancer (to which the
petrochemical and automotive industries contribute significantly).