Bill would ban laetrile, once heralded as a cure for cancer

2013-02-07T00:00:00Z Bill would ban laetrile, once heralded as a cure for cancerHoward Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star
February 07, 2013 12:00 am  • 

PHOENIX - A state lawmaker trying to repeal the medical marijuana law has decided it's also time to scrap a state law that allows Arizonans to dose themselves with another federally banned drug.

Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said his fight against marijuana is based on his belief it does no medical good and can actually be harmful, and the state should never be in a position of sanctioning such phony medications.

Anyway, he noted, marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

But Kavanagh conceded he had been unaware of a law dating back more than three decades that allows Arizonans to buy and use laetrile despite a ban by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because of its links to cyanide. To be consistent, he now wants that law repealed, too.

So he filed HB 2521 late last week.

The fight involves laetrile, also known as amygdalin and vitamin B17. Arizona law makes it illegal to manufacture, sell or even give away any drug unless it has been approved by the federal government.

But in the 1970s, lawmakers approved an exception for laetrile, calling it a "nutritional supplement." The argument at the time was the drug, processed from apricot pits, was an effective treatment for cancer - one the government refused to recognize.

According to the American Cancer Society, it contains a substance the body converts to cyanide and there have been reports of poisoning. But the state law permitting its manufacture and sale remains.

The statute went unnoticed until earlier last week when Kavanagh was defending his measure to ask voters to repeal the 2010 law allowing doctors to recommend marijuana for medical purposes. He said when the state decides whether drugs should be legal, it should look to the FDA, along with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the American Medical Association.

"When they say it's safe and it works, then we allow it to be sold," Kavanagh said. "We don't let people on their own dose themselves with heroin, marijuana or arsenic or anything."

But he later conceded that state law does let people dose themselves with cyanide. He said laetrile "has since been shown to not only not help cancer but actually be dangerous."

No hearing date on Kavanagh's measure has been set.

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