A panel of scientific advisers to Gov. Mills E. Godwin has recommended that Virginia take no legislative action to either ban or permit the use of the controversial cancer drug Laetrile.
A spokesman for the governor said Godwin had no comment on the report.
Laetrile, a substance derived from apricot pits, is barred from interstate transportation by the Food and Drug Administration. Doctors can administer it to patients but under present law physicians would risk malpractice suits arising from the use of an unapproved drug.
Advocates of the drug say that it cures cancer and relieves pain suffered by cancer victims. However, numerous scientific studies have found Laetrile to be useless as a cure and the U.S. surgeon general has labeled it a "hazardous" drug.
The Laetrile dispute "has been fanned to a flaming intensity," according to the report by Dr. Herbert McKennis, head of the Medical College of Virginia division of biochemical pharmacology; Dr. Ertle B. Thompson, professor of science and education at the University of Virginia; and Dr. Kuldip Chopra, professor of physics and geophysics at Old Dominion University.
"If Laetrile does not prove itself effective during the course of several years, use of Laetrile may gradually decline to near zero point as has been the case with other of our medical customs including the use of stomach brushes and related quaint items," they said. "If for some reason Laetrile is proven to be of lasting value, the controversy may wane.
"Under the circumstances, common sense will have prevailed without the enactment of any new legislation. This in the long-run may be the most expedient and useful route," they concluded.
The panel said, "It can be stated that Laetrile, although not a drug of proven value, probably never can be a drug of no proven value. It is virtually impossible to prove a substance useless under any and all conditions."
The doctors said, "Laetrile is being used in Virginia or by Virginia citizens who travel to Mexico or parts of the United States where Laetrile is more generally available."
And in the absence of a ban on the drug, "there will . . . probably continue to be some use of Laetrile by Virginia citizens, with and without medical supervision," they said.
McKennis said the panel decided that a period of "watchful waiting" while Laetrile undergoes further tests would be the wisest step for Virginia. This would avoid the legislative controversies faced by other states, some of which have banned the drug while others approved its use.
Neither the Distcit of Columbia nor Maryland has taken legislative action on Laetrile.