Drug used to treat heroin addicts to cancer patients

The Irish College of General Practitioners, when asked if it was aware of GPs promoting LDN as a cancer treatment, said it “only supports evidence-based, specialist-led, multidisciplinary care” for cancer patients. Irish doctors have been prescribing cancer patients a controversial drug traditionally used in higher doses to combat heroin addiction, the Irish Cancer Society has complained.

Unhappy about the practice, society has hit out at GPs who treat cancer patients with Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN), saying they are putting vulnerable patients at “tremendous risk” and operating “outside of their scope of practice”.

Dr Robert O’Connor, the society’s head of research, said LDN was one of an increasing swathe of drugs being promoted as a “cure-all” in Ireland, despite a lack of scientific evidence it can help treat the disease. He said he was also concerned about anecdotal reports of Irish cancer patients accessing the drug from overseas.

“The evidence indicates that LDN has no benefit in the treatment of any form of human cancer,” Dr O’Connor said. “Clinical trials have been undertaken but there is no evidence from these trials to indicate that the agent has any use in cancer treatment.”

Naltrexone was first approved in the 1980s and is prescribed to people with heroin or alcohol dependencies. Over the past decade, advocates for the off-label use of Naltrexone in lower doses have claimed it can treat hundreds of other serious conditions, including various types of cancer.

But claims about LDN’s effectiveness in cancer treatment have been denounced by Irish experts: “There’s absolutely no role for Low Dose Naltrexone in cancer treatment outside of clinical trials,” said Dr Brian Bird, an oncologist and university lecturer who has led several clinical trials.

“Naltrexone is a very chemically active molecule that we use to reverse opioid toxicity. It may have some anti-fatigue properties but to extrapolate from that that it is going to help treat cancer is dangerous and irresponsible.”

Other experts urged patients firstly to consult the primary medical team treating their disease.