A 53-to-23 pr cent majority of the American people oppose the ban on Laetrile by the Food and Drug Administration. They hold this view even though reputable medical authorities have repeatedly labeled the substance ineffective as a cue for ancer.
Moreover, a decisive 68-to-13 per cent majority would support their own state legislatures' legalizing the sale of laetrile, as several states have already done.
The key to public attitude on Laetrile can be found in the fact that nearly eight out of 10 prsons agree that "since we don't know how to cure cance, if Laetrile is harmless, people ought to be able to buy it if they want to use it." All thins considered, they seem to say, why not let cancer victims use the drug, even if it probably will neither cure them nor even help their condition?
Reinforeing this view are public doubts about the FDA and other government health a gencies. These doubts were triggered by what the public feels was poor handling of the swine flu vaccine Irogram and the lack of a satisfactory explanation of the deaths of American Leion members following their convention in Philadelphia last year.
With regard to Laetrile, a 75-to-7 per cent majority agrees with the claim that "since some cancer patients say that Laetrile relieves their pain and makes them feel better, it is posible the FDA is wrong in saying it is ineffective.
Despite the widespread support for legalizing Laetrile, people are aware of the pitfalls of having drugs on the market which might not be as effective as claimed. By 69 to 14 per cent, a majority feels that "one of the problems in coming up with a cure for cancer is that patients and the public can be so easily misled by promises of so-clled miracle drugs that really don't work.
In addition, by 47 to 35 per cent, a plurality goes along with the argument that "if it is true that Laetrile is ineffective in treating cancer, then it is cruel to raise the hopes of cancer victims by allowing them to use the drug."
Medical science theams, such as the one at Sloan Kettering Institute in New York, which recently issued a negative report on Laetrile, point out that when patients put their hopes in an ineffective drug, they often deterred from taking treatments which might ultimately cure them.
However, after being exposed to all of the arguments for and against Laetrile, people-by 5 to 1-would like to see the drug legalized in their own states, even if the FDA continues its ban nationally.
One sugnificant finding in this Harris Survey of 1.625 adults nationwide is the fact that more education people have, the more convinced they are that Laetrile should be permitted to be sold. While 54 per cent of those with only grade-school education want the sale of the drug to be legal, a much higher 73 per cent of the college-educated share this view.
It is not that the better-educated are convinced that Laetrile is effecrive. Rather, they are more deeply convinced that the country should pursue a policy of pluralism with respect of products, even where health is concerned.