A pharmacist said he was at “rock bottom,” grieving and addicted to cocaine when he sold HIV drugs for his own personal gain
In March 2019, the Sydney pharmacist’s registration was suspended by the Pharmacy Council, the Civil and Administrative Tribunal NSW heard.
The conduct in question had taken place in three pharmacies: a western Sydney store where the man worked as pharmacist in charge and then pharmacist manager from September 2014 to 2018; an inner-west store where he had been a locum pharmacist in charge between September 2018 and February 2019; and a Central Coast pharmacy where he had been a locum pharmacist in charge from December 2018 to March 2019.
While working at the western Sydney pharmacy as the pharmacist in charge, he had misappropriated $20,000 of baby formula and sold the baby formula onto a third party in circumstances where the owner of the pharmacy did not have knowledge of this transaction and/or did not consent to this transaction – an allegation he admitted.
He did this during the months of September and October 2018.
He also admitted to allegations around the sale of various medicines via NOODnet at the stores where he locumed.
Monies from the sale of this stock to other pharmacies would normally be transferred to the pharmacies’ accounts – but the pharmacist pocketed it instead.
The tribunal heard that at the inner-west pharmacy, he sold two packets of Nexavar 200mg for $6,006 on NOODnet, using the pharmacy’s account.
The next month he used the account to sell Noxafil 10mg tablets with a total value of $3,855.50.
In both instances, he transferred the sale money to his personal bank account for his own benefit.
Between September and October 2018, the pharmacist also stole repeat scripts for 60 tablets of Reyataz 300mg; 200 tablets of Nexavar 200mg; and 60 tablets of Eviplera 300mg.
He dispensed these in December that year, for the purpose of selling the drugs on NOODnet.
At the Central Coast pharmacy that December, he inappropriately dispensed 60 tablets of Descovy for the same purpose, on two occasions.
That month he created a false account on NOODnet to sell drugs for his own benefit, using an email he created and another pharmacist’s registration details without her consent.
That month he dispensed 60 tablets of Triumeq, using a forged script he had stolen from the first pharmacy. He sold these on NOODnet the next month for $1,650.
He continued to dispense medicines from stolen, altered and/or forged scripts – including Nexavar 200mg and Gilenya 0.5mg – for him to sell on NOODnet.
In some cases he sold existing stock from the pharmacy, but pocketed the sale proceeds.
In December 2018 and January 2019, he misappropriated S4 drugs from the Central Coast pharmacy valued at $35,658.35.
The behaviour continued: on one occasion between January and February 2019 he inappropriately sold a two pen pack of Cosentyx 150mg, which had been existing pharmacy stock, on NOODnet for $1,375.
The same thing happened to another 120 tablets of Nexavar 200mg – though in this case, he sold it directly to another pharmacy via email, for $1,980.
The Tribunal also heard that between December 2018 and January 2019, the pharmacist stored all the S4 drugs he had inappropriately dispensed from the Central Coast pharmacy in a cupboard at his home, which he shared with his young children.
In around February 2019 he disposed of the goods he had at home… by throwing them in a Council collection bin.
The total value of the misappropriated drugs was $40,228.50.
The pharmacist admitted the conduct, and that it constituted both unsatisfactory professional conduct and professional misconduct.
The Tribunal accepted the Health Care Complaints Commission’s submission that the pharmacist’s conduct showed “a pattern of repeated premeditated dishonesty”.
He had also admitted that his motivation for selling the stolen drugs on NOODnet was to fuel a cocaine habit.
He said that he had been at “rock bottom” at the time of the behaviour, due to the death of his father. It was around this time that he had become addicted to cocaine, which he said was to help him deal with his grief.
He said he felt “ashamed and disappointed” at his behaviour and had been drug-free since April 2019; he had undertaken professional education and sought mental health help. A psychologist said he had presented with “a persistent depressive disorder co-morbid with narcissistic and obsessive-compulsive personality features”.
He had also apologised to the pharmacy owners and repaid them.
The Tribunal accepted the Commission’s submission that he had not “taken sufficient steps to put protective systems in place to avoid the temptation of drugs in the future” and noted with surprise that he had never entered a formal drug treatment program.
It cancelled the pharmacist’s registration and ordered that he may not apply for a review for two years.