Dozens of cancer patients given incorrect dose of medication at prestigious Australian hospital

By on February 19, 2016

St. Vincent's Hospital in Sydney (Facebook photo).
St. Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney (Facebook photo).

SYDNEY—Dozens of Australian cancer patients have reportedly received less than the recommended dosage of a chemotherapy drug over a three year period in one of the nation’s most prestigious hospitals.

While the problem has been known for some time, it is only now that St. Vincent’s hospital in Sydney has begun informing the surviving patients and their families that medical oncologist Dr. John Grygiel had been prescribing the same dosage for head and neck cancer without adjusting to their individual test results, Australia’s national broadcaster reported late Tuesday night.

The ABC reported that all 70 patients were administered the incorrect dosages for up to three years, and in some cases were given as little as 50 percent of the required dose.

The usual dosage for common head and neck cancers is between 200 and 300 mg of the drug, but Grygiel gave a flat 100 mg dosage.

“I think that he felt that the dose he prescribed was genuinely effective and caused less side effects for patients,” St. Vincent’s hospital director of cancer services Professor Richard Gallagher said.

“(But) I still don’t understand where the mechanism or thought came from,” he said, adding, “I’m not happy that this has gone on. I freely admit there’s clearly a breakdown in clinical governance.”

The hospital staff have been aware of the dosage error for at least six months, but waited on results of an external investigation before they started contacting the affected patients. An internal review was launched mid last year when the concerns were originally raised.

However, the hospital stresses that both investigations found that the dosage discrepancies had no adverse impact on the outcomes of the patients involved. The rate of current disease and death was within expectations among the group of patients.