Critical: NSW chief medical officer Dr Kerry Chant has condemned Newcastle cannabis campaigner Andrew Katelaris's cannabis "trial" involving two women.
DEREGISTERED doctor and cannabis campaigner Andrew Katelaris has been permanently barred from administering cannabis to patients because of his “unsafe” practises in a Newcastle case in 2015, and not because it involved cannabis oil, said the state’s chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant.
In comments after the controversial campaigner said the state’s health watchdog was “irrelevant to my existence”, Dr Chant condemned an “experimental trial” by Dr Katelaris in 2015 in which he injected “huge doses” of cannabis oil into the ovarian cancers of two women, leading to “catastrophic” outcomes for the women.
He later told the Health Care Complaints Commission he was “flying blind” because he did not know the cannabis oil’s concentration, and direct injection into a tumour had never been tried before.
“The conduct of this unregistered health practitioner is not consistent with any clinical trial,” Dr Chant said.
“Regardless of the substance injected, any unregistered medical practitioner choosing to practise in such an unsafe manner is likely to be similarly reported to the Health Care Complaints Commission.”
Dr Chant dismissed Dr Katelaris’s claim that one of the women, known as Ms K, had a 50 per cent reduction in her tumour after the cannabis oil injection in September, 2015.
Rather than Ms K’s tumour showing a sustained reduction, it “quickly rebounded to levels higher than those before the ‘treatment’ was administered”, Dr Chant said.
Ms K died in February, 2016, after a final text message to Dr Katelaris saying the two months of illness after the injection, and before she could resume chemotherapy, “allowed the cancer to go gang-busters again”.
Dr Chant said the HCCC noted that Ms K “suffered considerable distress as she realised (Dr Katelaris) did not have the skills or resources or ethical imprimatur to be able to conduct a trial of this nature”.
Dr Chant lodged a complaint with the HCCC about the Newcastle incident after a doctor advised her “an unregistered health practitioner had contributed to the prolonged hospitalisation of two women after injecting their abdominal cavity with an unknown substance”.
Dr Chant warned there were “significant risks in using black-market or unregulated cannabis or cannabis-based products due to the significant variability in quality and composition, potential contamination and potential for negative interactions with prescribed medications”.
The warning came a day after former Newcastle MP Bryce Gaudry spoke publicly about using cannabis oil obtained from Newcastle’s Ubuntu centre, associated with Dr Katelaris, to effectively deal with the symptoms of pancreatic cancer and its treatment.
His wife Barbara Gaudry said it would be “wonderful if cannabis oil was available so that you knew exactly what you were getting”.
A NSW Department of Health spokesperson said the NSW Government recognised the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids in the management of a number of health conditions.
“Clinical trials investigating the management of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, control of treatment-resistant epilepsy and management of the symptoms of advanced cancer are currently recruiting participants in NSW,” the spokesperson said.
“There are very few cannabis products around the world that have been formally assessed for safety and efficacy by a medicines regulator. Medical practitioners may be cautious about prescribing unregistered products where high quality evidence is limited. This is the same as for any other unregistered therapeutic product.”
The spokesperson said NSW and Federal law provided pathways by which doctors could seek approval to prescribe cannabis-based medicines that are not on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods.
“These are products that have not been evaluated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration for quality, safety or efficacy. Doctors have the right to decline to prescribe an unapproved product if they believe there is either insufficient clinical justification or no evidence to support the use of the product,” the spokesperson said.
Andrew Katelaris was deregistered in 2005 for drug use and administration, and unsuccessfully appealed the decision. In October the Health Care Complaints Commission permanently banned him from “injecting cannabis or any of its derivatives, either by itself or mixed with any carrying agent to any person”.
“Andrew Katelaris is permanently prohibited from supplying or administering cannabis or any of its derivatives to any person for the treatment, or purported treatment of cancer,” the HCCC ruled.
The University of NSW confirmed Andrew Katelaris was entitled to use the honorific Dr because of a research degree awarded in 1993, despite being deregistered as a general practitioner.
He denied he used the title Dr in an attempt to pretend he was a registered general practitioner.