A pharmacist’s registration has been cancelled after he was suspended over his inability to account for more than 5,700 packs of pseudoephedrine, and kept practising anyway
Sydney pharmacist David Le has had his registration cancelled for two years by the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
In March 2019, Mr Le was convicted of two counts of claiming to be registered under the National Law, or holding himself out to be registered as a pharmacist when he was not – as his registration had been suspended under Section 150.
In July 2017, NSW Health’s Pharmaceutical Regulatory Unit had told the Pharmacy Council of NSW that a restriction was placed on Mr Le’s authority as a pharmacist: that he was not to take possession of, or supply any S3 preparation containing pseudoephedrine.
This followed the discovery by the Australian Federal Police of about 98,544 pseudoephedrine tablets in 32 cardboard boxes, which had consignment and delivery labels attached for the Sydney City Pharmacy, which Mr Le owned as a sole trader.
The pharmacy was one of two which he owned alone at the time, and he also co-owned another Sydney pharmacy.
Records of supply of preparations of pseudoephedrine supplied by Mr Le did not record all the details of sales as required, and he did not provide all the purchase records from various suppliers of medicines containing the ingredient.
“An analysis of the data supplied to the PRU and other data obtained in relation to supplies of preparations containing pseudoephedrine from SCP shows that more than 5,700 packs of pseudoephedrine have not been accounted for at SCP in the period 12 August 2014 to 12 August 2016,” the Tribunal noted.
At an August 2017 hearing, the Pharmacy Council suspended Mr Le’s registration.
The Council noted that Mr Le said he had thrown out a large amount of out-of-date stock – but that he had earlier said that he only bought more stock when the store-room shelves were depleted.
At the time Mr Le denied any involvement with the manufacture of illegal substances and said the SCP labels were the result of his offering boxes for use to anyone who wanted to recycle them.
At the 2021 hearing, PRU principal pharmaceutical officer Kim Dolan’s statement was cited by the Tribunal, noting that between 12 August 2014 and 12 August 2016, Mr Le purchased 10,893 packets of pseudoephedrine products, of which 5,754 packs were unaccounted for.
Mr Le admitted that “with the benefit of hindsight, the purchases would seem excessive” and that he had been setting up one of his pharmacies, a small store for which he thought he had to order large amounts to get discounts.
He also admitted he had failed to adequately record sales and transfers of the products between the Sydney City Pharmacy and the other pharmacy he owned outright.
“In acquiring his pharmacies in a short period of time, he says that he was spread thinly in trying to manage them all at the same time, and should have more adequately supervised the recording of pseudoephedrine product sales and transfers,” the Tribunal noted.
The Tribunal also found that Mr Le failed to adequately record and in some cases record at all the disposal of pseudoephedrine products.
Meanwhile, despite his registration having been suspended in August 2017, Mr Le continued to turn up for work at his stores until August 2018.
He continued to manage the Sydney City Pharmacy, and work there.
Over the course of related criminal proceedings, Mr Le offered up explanations – such as locums being late or away, and being worried about leaving the shop unattended – however, he was convicted and fined $24,500.
In local court proceedings, Mr Le agreed that he had failed to roster registered pharmacists on at all times the Sydney City Pharmacy was open, did not employ a managing pharmacist for all times the store was open, and did not tell his staff that he was not a registered pharmacist.
When he was warned by a Council inspector in April 2018, he kept operating and managing the pharmacy anyway.
The HCCC submitted that restrictions on the supply of pseudoephedrine products exist due to the potential for these items to be diverted into the illicit manufacture of amphetamines.
“Mr Le’s excessive ordering of pseudoephedrine products and failure to properly account for the products that he ordered, sold and disposed of strike at the heart of these regulatory objectives, which are designed to minimise the risks of those products being diverted to illicit purposes,” the HCCC said.
Mr Le submitted that he suffers from anxiety and depression, and is struggling to meet the needs of his young family.
He said he had to sell his pharmacies at “huge losses”.
All but two particulars of the various complaints against Mr Le were established, the Tribunal found.
It ordered that Mr Le’s registration as a pharmacist should be cancelled, and that he should not be permitted to seek a review of this order for two years.
NSW Fair Trading Commissioner Rose Webb had also warned consumers earlier this year not to deal with discountepharmacy.com.au—a website registered to and managed by Mr Le, trading as Chemist Max.
A statement from Fair Trading said that customers had complained about not receiving goods ordered and paid for via the site, which promoted health and wellbeing products, supplements, cosmetics and analgesics.