Pubdate: Thu, 07 Jun 2001
Source: Courier-Mail, The (Australia)
Copyright: 2001 News Limited
Author: Sean Parnell


THE doctor and supplier of untested naltrexone implants to heroin
addicts is facing a Western Australian Medical Board investigation.

Perth doctor George O'Neil, who has been producing the controversial
implants and distributing the drug to other doctors, said last night he
would continue his operations and was expecting another shipment of the
drug in 12 days to make more implants.

Dr O'Neil has been supplying the implants to Brisbane doctor Stuart
Reece, who has been ordered to stop using them while the Medical Board
of Queensland investigates his practice.

Dr Reece is still able to prescribe naltrexone tablets, which are the
only form of the drug approved for general use by the Therapeutic Drugs

The implants have not been approved for use in humans and have not
received the green light from an ethics committee for use in clinical

But heroin addicts and their families in Queensland have said they would
travel to Perth to continue treatment with the implants.

Doctors are legally allowed to use them if they argue it is for
life-saving purposes.

But leading clinicians fear the implants are being used improperly along
with oral naltrexone, and are contributing to the heroin overdose death
rate in Queensland and Western Australia.

The Medical Board of WA yesterday informed Dr O'Neil they had received a
complaint about his practice and their investigation would include his
use and distribution of the implants.

WA Medical Board registrar Simon Hood said the preliminary stage of the
investigation involved meeting with Dr O'Neil and collating evidence and
newspaper reports on the implants.

Perth psychologist Professor Bill Saunders, who counsels many
heroin-dependent clients, is one of those who has made an official
complaint to WA Medical Board over what he believes is a ``barbaric

But Dr O'Neil said he would continue treating high-risk patients and
both he and Dr Reece had ``a good stock'' of the implants.

Doctors have also been importing implants from the US. However, it is
believed they are more expensive and less effective as those produced in

Naltrexone can be imported by doctors, in either its raw form or as an
implant, with the approval of the TGA.

Dr O'Neil claimed the ``new form of naltrexone (implant) doesn't have a
death rate'' and the investigations had been prompted by a political
vendetta and biased media campaign.

``The heroin legalisation lobby and the methadone lobby have been very
keen to make sure naltrexone doesn't come in,'' Dr O'Neil said.

Queensland Medical Board investigators yesterday continued removing and
replacing files from Dr Reece's Highgate Hill practice.

They will examine the number of addicts who died while undergoing
detoxification treatment and the steps Dr Reece took to obtain and
prescribe naltrexone.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Doc-Hawk