7News exposes medical scandal

A 7News special investigation has uncovered a major medical scandal, with serious allegations against one of Melbourne's most senior psychiatrists.

There are now calls for a Government inquiry into the claims of over-medication and conflict of interest involving drug companies.

Professor Graham Burrows was described as "the psychiatrist of last resort" after giving evidence for murderer Arthur Freeman, who threw his daughter off the Westgate Bridge.

His evidence in court contradicted six other experts, but 7News has discovered disturbing complaints about the professor that far exceed his court appearances.

And we have been inundated with complaints about him from his patients since our special report on7News Melbourne on Monday night.

One patient, Natalie, said she felt a chill as she watched television coverage of Professor Graham Burrows' evidence in the Freeman trial.

She said: "I turned to my partner and said 'oh my god, this is the guy who had done all this stuff to me' and I said, 'how can he still be treating people?'."

Natalie was an anorexic 36 kilograms when admitted to the Austin Hospital under Professor Burrows.

She was prescribed a dose of anti-psychotic drug, Seroquel - at least twice what's recommended for a schizophrenic adult man.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration guidelines for Seroquel don't mention anorexia. They say it's a drug for schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

And, the maximum dose is 400 to 600 milligrams a day - Natalie was on a thousand.

Even for acute mania, the TGA allows just 800 milligrams - Natalie was a dribbling mess.

Discharged from hospital weighing 41 kilos, she suffered a grand mal seizure - an epileptic fit.

Natalie says she was told it was caused by Seroquel, and toxicology studies have shown seizures are a side effect of the drug.

Professor Burrows claimed she had schizophrenia but the Royal Melbourne Hospital found she didn't.

"A psychiatrist said that no, I didn't have schizophrenia and that it was just purely eating disorder."

Natalie's fully recovered from anorexia now, and expecting a baby.

7News has discovered that weeks after her discharge, Professor Burrows published a study examining "off label" use of Seroquel in anorexia patients at the Austin.

And who paid? Seroquel's manufacturers, AstraZeneca.

AstraZeneca has since paid $520 million in civil penalties, fines and damages in the US for side-effects when, in many, "off label" drug trials of Seroquel went wrong.

The company sponsors the Mental Health Foundation of Victoria - Professor Burrows is the foundation's President and founder.

Professor Burrows was in Malaysia on Monday heading up the organising committee of a pharmacology conference - the major sponsor being AstraZeneca.

"He was using me as a guinea pig basically," Natalie said. "That's how I feel about it."

Mental Health advocate Isabell Collins has received many complaints about Professor Burrows from patients and psychiatrists, but they've been too scared to take it further.

Ms. Collins of the Vic Mental Illness Awareness Council, said: "Certainly some feel threatened by him and frightened."

She wants a Government inquiry.

"I think he should be investigated," she said. "You know, Graham's entitled to natural justice, but there've been enough complaints for somebody independent to investigate his practice."

Professor Burrows initially refused all interview requests. When asked to provide answers by email, his assistant replied he was busy getting ready for his Malaysia trip and hadn't been able to retrieve Natalie's patient notes.

But today 7News received a letter from lawyers acting for Professor Burrows in which he strongly denies any wrong-doing.

The Professor says he's already subject to rigorous scrutiny by the medical practitioners board and peer review.

He also denies any suggestion his patient care has been inappropriate.

Response to special report

There has been a staggering response to our special investigation. Following our initial report on Monday, 7News has been inundated with complaints about him from his patients.

The Medical Board is now monitoring the allegations to determine what action is necessary to protect the public.

7News received more than 60 responses, chiefly complaints about the Professor over-medicating them, they say, and billing them for consultations as short as thirty seconds. Many say he destroyed their lives and their health. Only three had anything positive to say.

"Diane" was among the viewers who contacted us following the initial report aired on 7News Melbourne on Monday night.

She says she has been carrying grief and anger about Professor Graham Burrows for 32 years.

Her husband was a high-profile GP and father of four before seeing the psychiatrist.

He was put on a then-new psychiatric drug, Tolvon, and Diane says his behaviour changed radically.

A week later, he shot himself.

She told Professor Burrows, and claims he responded "Oh, that's my fault?"

She says the Professor told her that was because she should've hospitalised her husband.

"I believe that he was responsible for my husband's death," she said.

The Professor also fought Bernard Daniels in VCAT.

Mr Daniels wanted his son off a high dose of the controversial anti-psychotic, Zyprexa.

Professor Burrows and the Austin hospital attempted to get legal guardianship of Garth Daniels to keep him on it.

"In their clinical trials, the maximum dose they used was 20mls and in the case of my son, they were using four times that," Bernard said.

Eventually the hospital withdrew the VCAT application after three hours.

Zyprexa's manufacturer, Eli Lilly, has, also paid billions in settlements and fines in the US for harmful side effects.

Professor Burrows has accepted travel and prizes from Eli Lilly.

American doctors must disclose if their clinical trials are funded by drug companies, but not here.

Psychiatrist Dr Jon Jureidini says Australian psychiatric studies are so compromised by drug companies, they can't be trusted.

Dr Jureidini said: "It makes me angry, actually, that my colleagues are so careless about the way in which they allow themselves to be influenced by the pharmaceutical industry."

The State and Federal Governments are so far resisting an inquiry into Graham Burrows, but encourage complainants to contact the Medical Board.

The Medical Board has asked 7News to contact all complainants and forward on their details to assist in the possible large-scale investigation into Professor Burrows.