I've been blogging fairly regularly about Houston cancer quack Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski since 2011, and now the story is over...sort of. Unfortunately, as you will see, the ending is far from ideal. It is, however, somewhat better than I had feared it might be. What I'm referring to, of course, is the final ruling of the Texas Medical Board regarding Dr. Burzynski, the Houston cancer doctor who has been a frequent topic of this blog because of his practices of charging desperate cancer patient tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of dollars for his "antineoplastons" (ANPs) and, later, what he refers to as "personalized, gene-targeted cancer therapy" *(or, as I like to call it, making it up as you go along). Over the course of the last several years, a credulous filmmaker by the name of Eric Merola contributed to Burzynski's reputation in the alternative medicine world as a "brave maverick doctor" with two blatantly deceptive "documentaries, Burzynski The Movie: Cancer Is A Serious Business (now updated) and Burzynski: Cancer Is A Serious Business, Part 2, or, as I like to call it, Burzynski 2: Electric Boogaloo.
Burzynski's is a long and tangled story, one that I've blogged about many times. The details up to early 2014 are covered in an article I wrote for Skeptical Inquirer entitled Stanislaw Burzynski: Four Decades of an Unproven Cancer Cure. Burzynski has been selling cancer quackery since roughly 1977, which is around the time he left Baylor University to set up his own private practice and manufacturing facility to make and administer his ANPs for big bucks to desparate cancer patients, many of whom had terminal brain cancers like glioblastomas. The Texas Medical Board and then, beginning in the 1990s, the FDA have been trying to shut him down ever since, all with little or only temporary success, as when the FDA managed to put a partial clinical hold on Burzynski's clinical trials in 2013. It was initially issued for children but then extended to adults and was based on the death of a six-year-old boy named Josia Cotto of hypernatremia the year before (too much sodium in the blood, a known complication of ANPs delivered at the doses Burzynski uses). The success was short-lived, as the partial clinical hold was lifted a year later, because, according to the FDA, the Burzynski Clinic answered all its questions and concerns.
Most recently, in 2014 the Texas Medical Board, after a long investigation, decided once again to initiate legal action to strip Burzynski of his medical license. (It had tried and failed back in the 1980s and 1990s to do just that.) Unfortunately, the final ruling came in on Friday, and Burzynski was put on probation. He still has his medical license. Yes, there are conditions and Texas Medical Board oversight that he'll have to abide by, and yes, he was fined $60,000, but I view the sanctions as not a lot more than a slap on the wrist. Once again, the Texas Medical Board has failed to shut Burzynski down.
It is my educated opinion that Burzynski is a cancer quack. I do not make that charge lightly and will back up my opinion. Beginning in the late 1970s, he began administering ANPs to cancer patients without their having been demonstrated to be safe and effective in well-designed clinical trials. The "brave maverick doctor" that he is he just knew they worked, and, like many cancer quacks, over the years he accumulated what seemed like "success stories." However, as I've discussed many times over the last 6 years, if you look at them more closely, these "success stories" can almost always be explained by the conventional treatment patients have undergone before they turned to Burzynski. Examples abound, patients such as Hannah Bradley, Laura Hymas, Tori Moreno, and Mary Jo Siegel, and Sheila Herron. I note that, of these, Laura Hymas featured prominently as a success story, only to die of recurrent cancer a year after the second Burzynski movie featured her so prominently as a success story. Particularly memorable was a scene in which audio was played of her and her family trying to persuade her NHS oncologist to do routine tests as part of Burzynski's clinical trial and him trying to explain to her that he can't do that because his was an unapproved treatment and his clinical trial was not approved by the NHS. As a fellow physician, I really felt for that oncologist, who was put in a very difficult position. These are but a few of the patients. Fellow skeptic Bob Blaskiewicz maintains a blog, The Other Burzynski Patient Group, patterned on a website set up by Burzynski patients to tout the "success stories," that documents just how many of these patients have died.
More importantly, the website documents the suffering, both physical and financial, of patients who are lured to the Burzynski Clinic by promises of cures, most often promoted by Burzynski believers like Eric Merola. (Indeed, his Burzynski movies have probably generated more business for the Burzynski Clinic than anything else in Burzynski's 40 year history.) Basically, Burzynski charges exorbitant fees for his services. He likes to claim that he charges nothing for his ANPs, and, after the FDA cracked down on him, that was true. However, he charges huge "case management" fees. For example, Pete Cohen, Hannah Bradley's husband, documented why his fundraising target to get his then-fiancée treated in Houston was £200,000 (approximately $246,000 at yesterday's exchange rate, a lot more back in 2012), estimating her monthly costs to be £8,600.
Moreover, £200,000 wasn't even that high for a Burzynski patient. It's not for nothing that I refer to Burzynski's operation as taking advantage of the kindness of strangers and note how often the press spins a narrative full of false balance of desperate cancer patients desperately pursuing their last chance. The prodigious fundraising required to afford Burzynski's treatments has been documented at TOBPG and all over the blogosphere and includes cases such as that of Seán Ó’Laighin (who did not survive), Rene Louis, Jesse Bessant, Rachel Mackey, Luna Petagine, Wayne Merritt. and Chiane Cloete. A lot of these people came from the UK, and perhaps the most famous two included Billie Bainbridge, whose family raised hundreds of thousands of pounds and got celebrities to help in order to travel to Houston, and Amelia Saunders, a lovely child who was unfortunate enough to be diagnosed with a brain tumor whose parents raised over £200,000 in 12 weeks in order to pay for Burzynski’s treatments and who was featured as a great "success story" by Merola and Burzynski. What really angered me (even more than a typical Burzynski story) is that Burzynski told the father that the formation of cysts in the tumor was the tumor dying because of treatment when in reality it is quite common for tumors to outgrow their blood supply, leading to the death of cancer cells in the middle. Sadly, Amelia ultimately died.
Here's where Burzynski is different—and worse—than typical cancer quacks, such as those in Tijuana. Basically, unlike the vast majority of other cancer quacks, Burzynski has had clinical trials open, lots and lots of them, and he has used them as a tool to continue to be able to administer ANPs. Worse, he charges patients on clinical trials, a practice that is very much frowned upon and considered, with very few, defined exceptions, to be unethical.
The last time that the TMB tried to take Burzynski's license away was in 2012. It failed on the slimmest of technicalities. Meanwhile, since 1998 he's been enrolling patients on clinical trials, charging them, and not publishing his full results for a long time. Recently, he has published a few reports, but they've all been in bottom-feeding journals and/or don't report the whole trial. The closest thing he had to a decent publication showed that ANPs didn't work against colorectal cancer metastatic to the liver. He even just did it again last month.
Then, in 2014 the TMB decided to try again. The original complaint was over 200 pages long, but basically the TMB charges fell into three main categories:
- Creating a "medical practice model based on marketing his proprietary anti-cancer drugs to patients without adequate measures for safety and therapeutic value."
- Misleading patients knowingly "by promoting these drugs as an attraction to bring patients to his medical practice when he was aware that he could not legally include most of those patients in FDA-approved Phase 2 clinical trials of his proprietary anti-cancer drugs" and "into paying funds as a retainer prior to receiving any evaluation, diagnosis or treatment."
- Misleading patients into: "(1) paying exorbitant charges for drugs and medical services; (2) accepting care from unlicensed persons while Respondent and Respondent’s employees misrepresented those unlicensed persons to be licensed medical doctors in Texas and the United States of America; and (3) accepting care from health care providers who had little advanced education or training related to cancer treatment while Respondent and Respondent’s employees misrepresented those health care providers to be doctors with significant advanced education or training related to cancer treatment.
Anyone who has paid attention to Burzynski should be able to tell that charges #1 and #3 are very provable. As for Charge #2, as I've discussed before, the Burzynski Clinic's trials were on partial clinical hold, Burzynski did appear to be doing a "bait and switch," where ANPs drew the patients in, and then he'd give them his jury-rigged "gene-targeted personalized" therapy consisting of cocktails of very expensive targeted therapies that were not known to be safe and effective when administered together. To prove these charges, the TMB described 12 patients (labeled Patients A through L) whose treatment did not live up to the standard of care in one or more of these three areas. For instance, the TMB charged that Burzynski treated Patient A with ANPs for colon cancer even though the patient had never had a biopsy and that non-physicians represented themselves as physicians to them. For Patient C it was a similar story; Burzynski treated the patient for mesothelioma without biopsy confirmation and without "adequately documenting Respondent’s medical rationale." Patient G, for example, was charged for her treatment even though she was on a clinical trial, and there were multiple failures to follow FDA regulations about human subjects.
The TMB proceedings have been going on against Burzynski for well over three years now, and during that time, Burzynski has been pulling out all the stops and using all the old propaganda tactics he's used since his patients swarmed the courthouse during his trial in the 1990s. Sadly, he's even had some success in that journalists who should know better fell for the "false balance" trope over a patient who was being denied ANPs because an FDA inspection of his manufacturing facility had turned up serious issues. That the proceedings have dragged on this long shouldn't be a surprise; Burzynski is an old master at this, as was his lawyer Richard Jaffe. Of course, the amusing thing is that during the proceedings Jaffe actually withdrew as Burzynski's attorney (and his son Greg Burzynski's attorney) and apparently sued him for $250,000 in unpaid legal bills, further delaying the proceedings. Then, in December 2015, Burzynski's informed the Board that he had had a heart attack and wouldn't be able to proceed for a time, delaying the second phase of the proceedings for several months.
Also, in October 2016, there was a major setback when administrative law judges issued a proposed decision dismissing the bulk of the charges against Burzynski, largely because of gross incompetence on the part of the TMB. For example, instead of local cancer experts from, for example, M.D. Anderson and Texas Children’s Hospital, you know, the doctors who have to clean up the mess when one of Burzynski’s patients suffers the complications of his incompetence and the toxicity of his ANPs, the TMB relied on outside experts. In fairness, we can’t know for sure why the TMB didn’t use local experts because its spokesperson wouldn't say. Given Burzynski’s famously litigious nature and his tendency to use his patients as shields and spears against his enemies, it could well be that local oncologists were cowed and didn’t want to speak out the way Dr. Jeanine Graf, director of the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) at Texas Children’s Hospital did to the producers of the BBC news magazine Panorama when Panorama did a story about Burzynski, stating ,point blank, that she’s never seen a Burzynski patient survive. Instead, we got experts from elsewhere who made some careless mistakes. Worse, the Chief Administrative Law Judge Lesli G. Ginn was not without fault, because she also accepted a lot of Burzynski propaganda as well, in particular Burzynski's claims that he had an independent Institutional Review Board (IRB). Wrong. The chair of Burzynski's Institutional Review Board, Carlton Hazlewood, is a longtime Burzynski crony and chairs the board of directors of the Burzynski Research Institute, as has been pointed out many times.
So things looked bad in October, but fortunately this was only a proposed judgment. What did the final judgment say?
On February 15, the TMB issued a proposed decision in which Burzynski would be fined $360,000, required to pay $20,000 restitution to a patient. Unfortunately, although the proposed decision included the revocation of Burzynski's medical license, the revocation was stayed, with Burzynski to be placed on probation with a public reprimand. In addition to the fine and his probation with reprimand, the TMB would require that Burzynski meet these conditions:
- The billing practices of the Burzynski Clinic must be monitored and patient records reviewed.
- Burzynski must complete a Physicians Ethics program and undergo continuing education to obtain credits of completion in several topics of medical research. (I laughed at this one. Burzynski knows medical research regulations; it's how he's so good at skirting them.)
- Burzynski must submit his informed consent forms to the Board for review to show that they comply with relevant regulations and laws, and each patient must receive and sign these new forms before treatment.
- Burzynski must inform his patients that he owns the pharmacy requires them to use. Ownership interest disclosure must be submitted to the Board for review.
- Burzynski must pass a Medical Jurisprudence Exam.
Overall, this struck me as a fairly substantial penalty, but far less than he deserves. Worse, Burzynski would have the opportunity to submit a counterproposal, and that's what resulted in the final decision issued on Friday, which is even less severe:
The board’s staff had originally recommended that Burzynski pay a $360,000 fine and $20,000 in restitution to a patient. They also wanted Burzynski put on probation, with the power to automatically revoke his medical license if he violated the terms.
Instead on Friday, the board opted for a lesser penalty that included a five-year probation with more lenient terms, a public reprimand, more training and oversight, along with $60,000 in fines and restitution.
Burzynski’s attorneys called the decision a win.
“It means that he gets to continue medicine. He gets to continue to save lives,” attorney Gregory Myers said.
That $60,000 includes $40,000 in fines and the aforementioned $20,000 in restitution to a patient. If Burzynski's attorneys consider this decision a "win," then for patients it is clearly a loss. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find the final final decision yet; so I don't know exactly how the terms of his probation are more lenient.
Still, even though Burzynski can continue to practice, I have some hope. For one thing, Burzynski is no spring chicken any more. He's 74, and he had a heart attack a little more than a year ago. The terms of his probation will likely take him through most of the rest of his 70s, and, at his age, can he really stand to practice with the TMB monitoring him? He's always been stubborn and arrogant, and I can't picture him tolerating the regular monitoring of his billing practices and patient charts that will occur with much equanimity at all. Will he actually complete courses on Physician Ethics and study for a medical jurisprudence exam"? I'm not sure I can see it happening. Maybe he'll retire.
Or maybe not. That's the problem. Burzynski is nothing if not expert at evading the spirit of constraints placed on him to continue to sell his unproven treatments to patients for exorbitant sums of money.
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One of the many reasonable follow-up questions to this decision is, "What would it take to get the Texas Medical Board to actually revoke somebody's medical license?" And I have the feeling I don't want to know the answer to that question.
"Will he actually complete courses on Physician Ethics and study for a medical jurisprudence exam?"
I gather from the latter requirement that Burzynski either 1) got his Texas medical license so long ago that he never had to take the exam (the jurisprudence exam has been in force for at least 20 years), or 2) the Board's perception of his knowledge base is such that they're making him take it again.
In any event, the jurisprudence exam isn't that hard (there is at least one prep course offered online), and medical ethics coursework (required every licensing period for docs with Texas medical licenses) aren't very onerous or expensive either.
Being required to take ethics coursework should sting minimally, seeing that everyone with a Texas medical license has to do so.
"What would it take to get the Texas Medical Board to actually revoke somebody’s medical license?”
Just do a Google search and you'll see the myriad reasons behind revocations. One biggie seems to be operating unlicensed/illegal pain management clinics (it also doesn't help when docs are charged with something and ignore board notifications to show up for hearings).
Can we get these polypeptides some other way besides the serial liquid chromatography of mare urine?
I can think of at least one example. On SBM there was a commenter months ago who had his MD license stripped by the TMB. The documents are all online. He continued to "practice" medicine even after his license was revoked and he had to be warned a second time.
He contends, despite the tangible evidence, that he "told the TMB to shove their license" and voluntarily relinquished it after realizing how corrupt the medicial system is.
One of his protocols to cure cancer was to inject the cancer patient's blood into a cow, then have the patient drink the cow's milk.
He now claims to make a million dollars a year selling supplements online. He was recently busted taking a loaded gun on a commercial airline.
Unfortunately I don't remember his name and since the SBM commenting system was either altered or deleted, it's impossible to find old comments.
To bring this on topic: when I read the TMB documents in the cow milk case I thought there might be a glimmer of hope the TMB would have the b*lls to do the same to ol' Stan.
By the way, am I the only one who keeps thinking of our old Burzynski troll Didymus Judas Thomas every time I see Trump's initials DJT? Maybe Trump WAS Didymus?... :)
I remembered his "stage name": Dr. Fitt. Real name: former MD Roby Mitchell from Amarillo.
Google him and have fun if you want to see what it takes the TMB to revoke a license. Step one: Get a cow...
Beside his gun incident, he also threatened death on Facebook to a (licensed) doctor in his area who displeased Roby for whatever reason.
And he sells a cancer cure on his website.
Yes, but Burzynski has a higher success rate than Oncologists who rely on chemotherapy and radiation.
How would anyone know? Forty years and not a single published study.
Eric Merola's infomercials are not evidence. Most of the people in his films are dead anyway.
Sorry, only the quoted line should have been bolded.
Oh boy, the Stan shills have arrived...
By the way, I'm not sure if Orac is aware (I posted it on an outdated thread several months ago but it got swamped by more active comments) but his nemesis and number one Burzynski supporter Sheila Herron died last year.
There didn't seem to be any online presence about her death, like an obituary or even a Facebook memorial, so she may have been hit by a bus and her death might have have nothing to do with her cancer or Burzynski's failure.
Given that it's Fucklesworth impersonating Kalichman, it hardly matters.
Wait, this Seth guy is real? And he supports and defends Stan?!
He needs to sharpen his critical thinking skills.
Oh Seth...Seth Seth Seth.
The problem with talking about chemotherapy "success" rates as you termed it, is that some forms of cancer are very aggressive and often fatal. If some cancers are 99% lethal, yet chemotherapy and early diagnosis reduces that to 75% lethal, that is a 25x multiplier in survivability. Stanislaw then does some witchcraft, and guess what, the lethality of that disease is still 99%. His multiplier is zero.
Also what kinda joke is it to use a report from another quack's website? That's the other side of the issue, some cancers aren't lethal, so when someone just happens to survive the quacks take credit. When they don't, the quacks say it was because western medicine already did too much damage.
It's Travis J. Schwochert; my comment with his usual nickname is in moderation.
Does the a-hole have nothing better to do than spend hours a day trying to outsmart Orac, spoofing ISPs and skimming e-mail addresses?
What's his point? I thought he only disrupted vaccination-themed discussions.
Even if he does, isn't his equally skeevy son at the helm now?
Thanks for the info, WooFighter. Though this guy probably didn't go quite that far, I'm reminded of a Tom Lehrer line: "He majored in animal husbandry until they ... caught him at it one day."
"Australia: where men are men and sheep are ... frightened."
The punchline to the cow milk story, if such a tragic story can have a punchline, is that after the cancer patient died, Roby refused to pay the farmer (the owner of the cow) the agreed-upon fee!
What do you think PETA would do if they found out a former doctor was injecting cancer into cows?
"What’s his point?"
It is pointless to try to understand an unreasonable person by the expected behavior of a reasonable person.
I thought maybe he had claimed to have a "vaccine-injured" kid or something that would justify an anti-vax agenda, like many of the AofA denizens.
That would still reflect the actions of an unreasonable person.
You likely know the old saying: you cannot reason a person out of a position they did not reach by reason. Many anti-vaxxers seem to fit this description.
Then there are the perpetual contrarians. They feel a strong sense of affirmation by going against the consensus, be it politics or science. They are only emboldened by refutations of their views.
What category Travis fits I can't say, nor do I care.
So not just a quack but a cheapskate.
A description he shares with Burzynski. As noted in the OP, Burzynski stiffed his lawyer at one point during the proceedings. That's usually a land-war-in-Asia class blunder for someone like Burzynski, but he appears to have gotten away with it, or at least not suffered the consequences for doing so.
Come to think of it, that's something Burzynski and Trump have in common. Trump has a reputation in the real estate world for stiffing his contractors--including lawyers who have represented him in suits filed by stiffed contractors.
P.S. I have heard multiple places described as, "Where men are men and sheep are nervous."
Call for the elimination of domesticated cattle. But they already do that.
Skeptico = Travis Schwochert of Endeavor, Wisconsin = Fucklesworth, and can be safely ignored
You're late. Travis picked another bad one that I recognized right away as him because I know Skeptico. He was a long time regular commenter in the early days and still shows up from time to time, albeit nowhere near as often as he used to. He'd never say the sort of shit Travis did.
One biggie seems to be operating unlicensed/illegal pain management clinics
Ah, opiate pill-mills. Where the Randroid policy of "Abolish regulations and let doctors make money in whatever way they like" runs up against the insidious fear that someone might be having fun.
“What would it take to get the Texas Medical Board to actually revoke somebody’s medical license?”
The TMB finally revoked Dr Duntsch's license in Dec. 2013, after he was caught shoplifting trousers and liquor, rather than for killing and maiming patients with deliberately incompetent spinal surgery.
I was not late.
I'm a slow typist.
When and where I was growing up, it was always Montana.
HDB@27: Sadly, opioid addiction is a serious problem in large parts of the US, including, increasingly, small town/rural America. The economy is increasingly concentrated around big cities, and places that are not within commuting distance of such cities have progressively less to offer residents and potential residents. The more ambitious ones leave for the cities. The rest find themselves with little better to do than hang out with friends, drink, and do drugs.
It's not yet a problem where I live because I am (1) in a university town (2) within commuting distance of Boston. But I don't have to drive very far to get to places where this is a problem. It's one reason why I no longer feel safe in many of Maine's small towns (especially west and north of I-95). And I am as white as freshly fallen snow; people with recent non-European ancestry have additional reasons to be careful about personal security up there, such as the concentration of gun nuts who vote Republican.
But unlike Gov. LePage, I don't fear for my safety in Lewiston, which is home to a substantial Somali refugee community. Lewiston is also a college town (Bates College), and it's close enough to Portland for that commute to be viable. So unlike too many places further upcountry, Lewiston has visible means of support.
@ Woo Fighter--are you referring to "Dr. Fitt" who was also recently found guilty of threatening to shoot a Texas oncologist in the head? http://amarillo.com/news/2017-01-05/dr-fitt-roby-mitchell-found-guilty-…
Yeah, I have concerns for whether TMB has any real teeth, too.
La Roche moutonnée -- the sheep-shaped rock. Those horny explorers! Any dibs on why they called part of the Rockies Grand Tetons??
If one is going to shag a sheep, get it up against a cliff so it pushes back better. That, and drop its hind legs in your boots.
Yes, his nom de plume came to me after my first post, thanks. I remember calling him Dr. Not Fit (to practice) on SBM.
Did you follow his unhinged comments over there?
As I said, I was encouraged to read that the TMB yanked his license, leading to optimism the same fate could possibly befall Stan.
And why do I have an urge for lamb chops for dinner tonight?
Burzynski's story is as a generational force of nature. He's a wildly self promotional salesman and politician, say or do anything, a survivor at all costs. The ANP were once mildly interesting technically but still fail on cost and therapeutic index if one takes the CRC claims at face value. Burzynski's real "legacy" seems be to in two areas:
First, in the 80s and 90s, he showed that providers really could charge a lot more for cancer treatment. For this, the drs and pharmas should be grateful. In today's market, his charges don't seem so notable against insurance billings of $30,000- $50,000- $80,000 - $100,000+ per month that I've seen with my acquaintances. Especially given his high overhead costs....
Before SB, conventional medicine's legal treatment of alternative medical doctors was pretty much like clubbing baby seals. 1 - 2 good thumps, skin them and/or eat them as you like, In essence, he brought due process and patient's rights issues to bear by his fighting back. Wrong horse technically, but important legal and political issues.
You've got a sick and twisted world perspecive
Bates College? I have a bachelors degree and a masters from Bates.
Call me priggish, but there's something wrong with stores that facilitate this kind of pairing without a riding mower's being involved.
Eric Lund, #30, I grew up in Fredericton, NB, and haven't been to Maine in quite a long time. Even when I did it was just to Presque Isle, or Bangor on occasion, and I was pretty young. So I don't really have much direct experience of Maine. However, on occasion I read news from Maine, and reading about LePage and people like him always amazes me. I used to think Maine was pretty similar to NB, but while NB can be a pretty conservative place, I am always surprised just how ridiculous things can get when you cross over that border, and how much more common those views seem to be. Trump got almost 45% of the vote in Maine, but in polls taken during the run up to the election, only 12% of those in NB would have voted for him. Attitudes seem to be very different in two places which have a lot of similar problems.
Did not a single local oncologist (adult or pediatric) stand up to testify against this quack Burzynski? I ask this because of what was written by Craig Masilow in the Houston Press ( http://www.houstonpress.com/news/texas-medical-board-whiffs-in-latest-c… ):
Incredibly, it seems that none of the board's medical experts who came were local — e.g., physicians at Texas Children's Hospital or M.D. Anderson, who have a long history with treating patients right before, or after, they've sought help from Burzynski. It seems like credible local specialists from the Texas Medical Center should have been lined up around the block to shed some light on Burzynski's "antineoplaston" treatment, and their silence is deafening. Because the board's spokesperson, Jarrett Schneider, wouldn't comment, we don't know if the board couldn't afford to pay these people for their time, or if they weren't considered in the first place.
It may be that TMB wanted non-local experts, but have any local oncologists filed complaints against Burzynski based on the patients they've seen hurt by Burzynski?
@Chris - good point. Based on case reports, it appears that physicians at TCH are old hat at cleaning up Burzynski's messes...I can't believe none of them were called to testify.
Travis@39: My experience of Maine has mostly been day trips (the only exception was an overnight stay in Bar Harbor when my mother and I saw Acadia National Park). One of these days I would like to get up to Fredericton--I know somebody who is a professor at the university there (he's an immigrant, so it's unlikely you would know him)--which is about a six hour drive from where I live. But I haven't been north of Bangor or east of Bar Harbor.
My impression is that southern Maine (York and Cumberland counties; the latter is metro Portland) is safe, and you are generally OK along the I-95 corridor up to Orono and most of the coast up to Bar Harbor. These are areas with visible means of economic support. Large portions of northern, western, and downeast Maine lack that. Those are the parts of the state that vote for LePage, Bruce Poliquin (the only Republican Congressman from New England), and Trump.
This sucks. Is this failure of the Medical board due to it's location in a "Red" stat, or is it that medical bards are just shit at regulating their members? Someone linked to the provisional findings a couple of weeks back, but I held hope that the council would re-visit the more egregious flaws. It seems that they did re-visit, but only to gut the findings and remedies further. Maybe the old bastard will die of old age before he can do any more harm. Well we can hope.
Funny, "orac", how you don't even publish your posts using your real name. You're obviously a tool for the FDA, big pharma, etc.