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News (Media Awareness Project) - New Zealand: 'Negative Publicity' Halted Ketamine Trial
Title:New Zealand: 'Negative Publicity' Halted Ketamine Trial
Published On:2011-08-22
Source:Otago Daily Times (New Zealand)
Fetched On:2011-08-24 06:01:52

"Negative publicity" about ketamine meant a trial of the drug on
depressed cancer sufferers stopped recruiting participants for more
than a month, Dunedin Hospital medical oncologist Dr David Perez says.

"It was halted for new participants because of the negative publicity
around the drug at the time, not because of any doubts about the
study itself," Dr Perez, a trial co-investigator, said.

So far, only one person is taking part.

The trial, which fully resumed last week, is testing ketamine's
effectiveness in relieving depression in people with advanced cancer.

On July 15, the National Health Board announced an investigation of
the same drug's "off-label" use last year for depression in mental
health service patients. An appointed group is determining whether
its use was experimental. It is also examining how "off-label"
prescribing is managed at the hospital.

Ketamine is licensed by Medsafe as a fast-acting general anaesthetic,
and is used for pain relief in milder doses. It is a class
C-controlled drug, used recreationally for its hallucinogenic effects.

Clinicians can prescribe drugs "off-label", but not for experimental use.

The NHB group's findings will be included in this month's report on
Dunedin Hospital. A spokesman yesterday said there was no firm date
for the group to report back.

The Health and Disability Commissioner is also investigating ketamine
use in Dunedin Hospital's mental health service.

The cancer patient trial's principal investigator is psychiatrist
Prof Paul Glue, head of psychological medicine at the Dunedin School
of Medicine, whose prescribing of ketamine for mental health patients
prompted complaints.

The cancer patient trial was approved in December by the Ministry of
Health's Lower South regional ethics committee, and has also been
approved by the Southern District Health Board's internal ethics committee.
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