By Ross Walker

This week has seen the start of the inquiry into the chemotherapy issues that have occurred at St Vincent’s Hospital. Again, we have been bombarded in the media with words such as scandal or bungle. The inferences have been that the under-dosing of chemotherapy has actually caused death or harm to the patients involved. There has been denials and misinformation leading to many ill-informed people being scared to have treatment at a fine institution such as St Vincent’s.

So, let’s look at the facts.

1) The oncologist involved, Dr John Grygiel, did not follow strict hospital protocols. It appears the administration was well aware of his attitude.

2) There are no well-done randomised controlled trials to strongly suggest that the higher dose chemotherapy designated by the protocols gave an enormous benefit over the flat or lower dose chemotherapy used by Dr Grygiel.

3) 20% of patients in the higher-dose trials could not tolerate these doses.

4) There has been (to my knowledge) no reported increased rate of death or disability in the patients who were not following designated protocols.

I see the situation somewhat analogous to the uproar over the ABC’s Catalyst program, suggesting there was no link between saturated fatty acids and heart disease and the rather obvious fact that statin drugs are being overprescribed by the medical profession.

The MJA even published an article extrapolating data from high-risk trials, suggesting that if a certain amount of people stopped statins as a consequence of the Catalyst program, we should see a certain amount of heart attacks and deaths as a consequence of the cessation of these drugs. But, again the MJA article did not actually look at the amount of deaths and heart attacks. But, as far as I’m aware, we haven’t actually seen more heart attacks or death as a consequence of the Catalyst program, probably because many people who shouldn’t be taking statins in the first place actually stopped the drugs.

Doctors have been treating patients off protocol on numerous occasions for many years. It is also very important to realise that the commonest cause of death in our society is cardiovascular disease, closely followed by cancer. Disturbingly, coming a very close third is Western health care.

In the Unites States alone, there are an estimated 760,000 deaths per year as a direct consequence of western healthcare. These deaths include prescribed pharmaceutical drugs, unnecessary antibiotic therapy, and unnecessary surgical and medical procedures along with superbugs.

Could it possibly be that Dr Grygiel was purely being cautious by not using large doses of chemotherapy? I would ask an independent expert in the area of chemotherapy and oncology to please show me, and the public, the evidence that Dr Grygiel has actually caused harm in any way, because as yet, I have not seen any.