Hoxsey: How Healing Becomes a Crime

This documentary concerns Harry M. Hoxsey, the former coal miner whose family’s herbal recipe has brought about claims of a cancer cure. Starting in 1924 with his first clinic, he expanded to 17 states by the mid 1950s, along the way constantly battling organized medicine that labeled him a charlatan.

Hoxsey’s supporters point out he was the victim of arrests, or “quackdowns” spearheaded by the proponents of established medical practices. Interviews of patients satisfied with the results of the controversial treatment are balanced with physicians from the FDA and the AMA.

A clinic in Tijuana, Mexico claims an 80% success rate, while opponents are naturally skeptical. What is apparent is that cancer continues to be one of humankind’s more dreaded diseases, and that political and economic forces dominate research and development.

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  1. The American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute do not advise the use of Hoxsey Therapy, as neither has found any objective evidence that the treatment provides tangible benefit to people with cancer.[1] Reviews by the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and M. D. Anderson Cancer Center found no evidence that Hoxsey Therapy is effective as a treatment for cancer.[2][3] A controlled experiment in lab mice did not find any difference in tumor growth between untreated mice and those given the Hoxsey tonic.[18] An FDA review of 400 people claiming to have been cured by the Hoxsey method found that many of the patients never in fact had cancer, or had received successful medical treatment elsewhere before being treated with Hoxsey Therapy. Those who had cancer at the time they used Hoxsey Therapy were uniformly either deceased or alive with active cancer. There were no cases of actual cures among those promoted as such by the Hoxsey clinic.[19]

    In 1957, a group from the University of British Columbia visited Hoxsey’s Mexican clinic and obtained records for 71 Canadian patients treated by Hoxsey. The University panel found that:

    For over one-half of the [cancer] patients from British Columbia, the result [of treatment with the Hoxsey method] has been either death or progression of the disease. In nearly one-quarter there was no proof that the patient ever had cancer. Nearly one in ten of the patients had curative treatment before going to the Hoxsey Clinic. In only one case, an external cancer, was there any evidence at all that the Hoxsey treatment had an effect on the disease; in that case, better results could have been obtained by orthodox means.[12]

    The panel reported that in the one case of demonstrable cure, a patient with a skin cancer of the ear, Hoxsey’s treatment had resulted in disfigurement which could have been avoided with standard surgical excision.[12]

    In 1998, the Office of Technology Assessment issued a report on herbal cancer treatments. This group found that while many elements of Hoxsey Therapy had antitumor activity in vitro, the complete Hoxsey tonic had never been tested in animal models or in human clinical trials.