Lawmaker Takes Aim At Supplemental Drug Once Hyped As Cancer Treatment

By Holliday Moore
Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Published: Friday, January 4, 2019 - 11:17am
Updated: Friday, January 4, 2019 - 12:40pm

Almost 50 years ago, Arizona lawmakers approved a controversial treatment for cancer by classifying it as a "nutritional supplement."

That move allowed proponents of the drug laetrile, also known as amygdalin and vitamin B17, to bypass state laws barring the manufacturing, selling or giving away of any drug not approved by the federal government.

Arizona State Senator John Kavanagh said it was mistake, "It was put on for non-medical political purposes and consequently should be removed."

He has plans to repeal protections for the drug made from apricot pits, which never went on to receive federal approval or real medical support.

The American Cancer Society has complained the breakdown of laetrile is cyanide, which is potentially deadly.

"Laetrile was exempted during a time when it was thought about in some non-medical circles to be a cancer cure, which was proven to be tragically false,'' said Kavanagh.

In 1980, screen actor Steve McQueen died while under going laetrile treatments for lung cancer in Mexico.

"The legality of drugs should be decided by science, not politics," said Kavanagh.

He said he took up the issue while researching state statutes and arguments against placing medical marijuana on the 2010 ballot.

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