Recently, I encountered a person who asks for money donation. She suffers from non-Hodgkin lymphoma and claims that there is a very promising way to be cured - to use the drug named laetril (or laetrile), also known as vitamin B17. She claims that this drug was shown to be an efficient anti-cancer drug, but due to the huge pharmaceutic companies lobby, it is not put in use in most countries.

Is there indeed the claimed efficiency of the drug? Are there any known positive or negative effects?

  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amygdalin
    – bummi
    May 7, 2013 at 16:54
  • 2
    I can never understand this type of claims... If the drug was such a miracle, pharmaceutical companies would immediately start producing it and make huge amount of money out of it (and maybe put out a few me-too drugs to get even some more...)
    – nico
    May 7, 2013 at 21:52
  • @nico oh, there will of course be the inevitable claims that "they're suppressing the knowledge because they make far too much money now selling expensive stuff when this cheap miracle pill you can get from our website can do the same for a fraction of the price". Same quack argument, different pill.
    – jwenting
    May 8, 2013 at 8:28
  • See also Can vitamin B17 cure cancer? on Biology.
    – user
    Apr 12, 2017 at 10:58

1 Answer 1



The American Cancer Society has a good overview of the scientific evidence:

Available scientific evidence does not support claims that Laetrile or amygdalin is effective in treating cancer or any other disease. Both contain a small amount of a substance that can be converted to cyanide in the body, and several cases of cyanide poisoning have been linked to the use of Laetrile. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved Laetrile as a medical treatment in the United States.


[A] 1991 review notes that, beginning in 1957, Laetrile was repeatedly tested against tumor cells implanted in animals. At least a dozen separate sets of experiments were done at seven institutions. Targets included several different types of cancer. The conclusion was that Laetrile did not have any anti-tumor activity.

The FDA placed sanctions against the sale of Laetrile. In 1977, the FDA commissioner stated that there was no evidence for the safety or effectiveness of Laetrile. Because of the risk of cyanide poisoning, the government has banned the transport of Laetrile into the United States or across state lines, as well as the use of Laetrile in states without laws specifically allowing it. Since 2000, there have been several instances of prosecution because of Laetrile transport across state lines. Nonetheless, products advertised as Laetrile and amygdalin can still be purchased via many websites.

  • What are your thoughts on this documentary
    – digest
    Dec 17, 2019 at 15:41
  • @digest: That it is an hour long and I have no time for that, that documentaries are not peer-reviewed and that this isn't a discussion forum.
    – Oddthinking
    Dec 17, 2019 at 22:49

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