Why are doctors and nurses treating cancer with the same medicine?
Medical specialists in the UK have been accused of prescribing the same drug over and over again to treat cancer, as the country’s national cancer charity warns of a “cancer pandemic”.
Speaking at a conference in London on Thursday, the charity, The Royal College of Physicians, called on patients and health professionals to question the “inherent bias” of doctors prescribing the drugs.
“In the past, patients have been told they had a disease and a cancer.
Now they are told that they have a cancer, and that’s what it is, and it’s a very troubling way of thinking,” said Dr Simon Jones, chairman of the medical committee.
Dr Jones is a consultant on cancer at the Royal College, which was established in 1948 to help doctors make better decisions for their patients.
He said patients who were prescribed the same cancer-fighting drugs often did not realise they were taking them.
“The doctors are going out and telling people they have cancer, but when they go to the doctor, they are given the same drugs,” he said.
“That is not a healthy way to conduct a cancer assessment.”‘
Toxic’ drugs being prescribed in AustraliaIt comes as the Australian Medical Association said it was concerned about the “potentially dangerous” use of cancer drugs.
The AMA says there is a “toxic cocktail” of drugs being given to Australians to treat the disease, with many being given as a “side-effect” to prevent patients from developing side-effects.
“If you are an Australian and you have been given an overdose of any drug in the past two months, there is absolutely no justification to be prescribed it again,” AMA President David Scherer said.
Dr Scherer told the ABC the AMA supported a national debate on whether to ban the use of the drugs, which are currently prescribed to treat lung cancer, pancreatic cancer and colorectal cancer.
“It is time for us to take the message that there are legitimate concerns about the use and misuse of cancer treatment drugs,” Dr Scherer added.
The drugs used include tamoxifen, tamoxipine and paroxetine, which have all been banned in Australia.
The Royal College said the drugs were being prescribed to “control cancer in an era of the pandemic”, but some were being given “for no reason other than to prevent the development of side-effect or side-tolerance.”
It said the pandemics’ “potential for harmful side- effects has been well documented in the literature”, but it was not clear what the risk was for people who took them.
The College says there were only 14 deaths from the drugs reported in Australia in 2016, and only two in the United States.
It said while there were no known deaths from them, there were “significant risk factors” including patients who had not been screened for cancer.
Dr Andrew Whitehead, a professor of medicine at the University of Adelaide, told the BBC he had “no doubt” the drugs “are very dangerous”.
“They are very potent, they affect people’s lives very badly, and they are extremely addictive,” he told the broadcaster.
“I would be very concerned about any potential dangers from those drugs.”‘
A toxic cocktail’ of drugsA recent review by the US government found that “tamoxifene, tamoxicam, and paracetamol are the most toxic and potentially harmful of the cancer drugs”, which were used by patients in the US for over two decades.
“Tamoxifens are potent and addictive,” the review said.
“The most common adverse effect was an increased appetite and weight loss, with most patients showing little improvement.
Tamoxifenes have been shown to be particularly toxic and carcinogenic.”
Dr Whitehead said he was “shocked” by the lack of research into the drugs and urged governments to ban them.
Dr White, who has also worked as a researcher for the World Health Organisation, said there was “no evidence that tamoxis work to improve survival rates or reduce the risk of cancer recurrence”.
He said there were concerns about how the drugs could affect the immune system, as well as being linked to heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
A spokesperson for the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of GPs said it had been contacted by the AMA.
“We do not comment on matters for which there is no medical evidence,” the spokesperson said.