A COMPLAINT against former Australian of the Year Patrick McGorry for planning a trial of drugs on children has been dismissed.
But the 13 international health experts who lodged the complaint with the ethics committee at Melbourne Health calling for the trial to be abandoned say they are dissatisfied with the finding and have lodged a complaint against the ethics committee.
Geoff Stuart from La Trobe University's school of psychological sciences, who signed the complaint, said there were concerns about the circumstances in which the proposed trial was aborted that deserved to be examined.
He said the "derisory and dismissive" one-sentence response of the ethics committee fell well short of explaining the "huge error" that was made in approving the trial.
Professor McGorry, executive director of the Orygen Research Centre and one of the Prime Minister's key mental health advisers, planned to trial the effectiveness of the drug Quetiapine on patients "who are deemed at risk of developing a psychotic disorder", listing it on the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry last March.
The trial, funded by the drug's manufacturer, was to investigate whether it would decrease or delay the risk of people between 15 and 40 with early signs of mental illness developing a psychotic disorder such as schizophrenia.
On July 31, 13 psychiatrists, psychologists and researchers from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Britain and the US objected to the trial for reasons including "the ethics of causing unnecessary harm to individuals not requiring treatment, to possibly prevent harm to a smaller number who do require treatment".
Professor McGorry said last night the study was approved by the ethics committee after a "very rigorous process" before being "reluctantly" abandoned in June, when it was decided to proceed with a more promising trial involving fish oil.
"As far as I'm concerned, the trial isn't going ahead - it was ethically approved to do so, the committee has considered the complaint very carefully and has made a decision," he said.
He said the complaint against the trial was "able to be defended on every level".
But Associate Professor Stuart said there was a lack of transparency in how such a controversial trial was ethically approved.
He said Professor McGorry's plan to use anti-psychotic drugs on children as young as 15 had "raised alarm bells around the world".
Melbourne Health said last night its mental health research ethics committee was "satisfied the process and the decision to give ethics committee approval of the study were appropriate".
The health organisation said the study had been abandoned by the research team for "logistical reasons".