Crown alleges St Vincent's drug fraud led to deaths
Senator claimed women died after clinical trials suspended
Senator John Crown (Independent) claimed women died after clinical trials at St Vincent’s private hospital were suspended. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
More than 20 women with breast cancer did not have access to potentially life-saving treatment as a result of the suspension of a drug trial following controversial allegations.
Senator John Crown (Independent) claimed in the Seanad last Friday that “women died” after clinical trials at St Vincent’s private hospital were suspended in a cover-up of a €1 million fraud at the medical facility just over a decade ago.
The drug at the centre of the clinical research – Herceptin – has since been found to be highly effective in tackling some forms of early-stage breast cancer and can reduce the chances of death by about a third.
Records indicate that about 15 women with breast cancer who were taking part in the trials at the Dublin hospital continued to receive the drug when the research was suspended.
However, plans to recruit between 30 and 40 additional women did not progress because the trial was suspended.
About two-thirds – or 20 – of these women would have received the drug.
Prof Crown, who is also a consultant medical oncologist at the hospital, told the Seanad last week that the hospital charged the VHI “deliberately and fraudulently” for high-cost cancer drugs, even though they were provided free to them by a pharmaceutical company.
“When they were caught out they next attempted to prove that the research programme was illegal – tens of thousands of euro of public money wasted in an attempt to criminalise part of their own organisation,” he said under privilege in the Seanad.
Prof Crown added that “as a result of their action the research programme was closed down for a year, women were denied access to Herceptin, which we now know was life-saving.
“Though it wasn’t the intent of the fraudsters or those who attempted to cover up, as an indirect result of their actions, women died.”
The chairman of St Vincent’s Healthcare Group, Prof Noel Whelan, has asked Prof Crown to forward to him, as a matter of “extreme urgency”, all information he has in relation to the allegations so any information could be fully considered by the organisation’s board.