A pharmacist who had to sell his store at a “monstrous loss” after his suspension has now been jailed for 22 months
The West Australian has reported on the case of a pharmacist who made $42,357 worth of fraudulent claims to the PBS.
The Perth pharmacy owner reportedly submitted 15 claims for 83 medicines for 18 patients who had been given IVF treatment at a nearby private hospital.
His claims indicated that the pharmacy had dispensed the medicines, but they had not been given to the patients in question – nor did the patients actually need them, the District Court heard.
The pharmacist netted $42,357 from the false claims, though the Court heard that he has now paid the money back in its entirety.
He had been found guilty of professional misconduct in 2019.
In October 2014, the Immediate Action Committee of the Pharmacy Board of Australia suspended the pharmacist’s registration on the basis of what a 2019 State Administrative Tribunal transcript refers to as “various matters”.
Singled out was the direct importation of S4 medications which were not contained on the ARTG, including hormone treatments.
In August 2015, the man’s registration was cancelled and he was disqualified from reapplying to practise for a year.
The August 2019 Tribunal heard that between May 2013 and December 2014, the pharmacist directly imported melatonin and bio-melatonin from a UK supplier on seven occasions, when his registration to practise was suspended.
In October 2015, the Board was given a notification alleging that the pharmacist had imported and supplied Epipens and Epipen Juniors which were not approved for use in in Australia, and which did not appear on the ARTG.
The notifier had observed that several emergency medication kits had been supplied to a nearby health practice by the pharmacist’s store – but that none of the 14 Epipens or 17 Epipen Juniors inside the kit were Australian medicines or ARTG-listed.
Again, the medicines had been imported while the pharmacist was suspended: between October and December 2014.
“It was subsequently identified that the [pharmacist] had also directly imported from overseas a number of other medications in quantities considered to be too large for personal use,” the Tribunal noted in 2019.
That Tribunal heard that the pharmacist had imported medications including Gutron, Cyclogest, Cialis and Crinone from the UK supplier, again bypassing Australia’s regulatory framework.
At the time of important, Gutron and Cyclogest were not ARTG-listed, and Cialis and Crinone were only registered for use in Australia if purchased from Eli Lily and Merch Serono.
From an early stage of the proceedings, the pharmacist had admitted the allegations of professional misconduct, the 2019 Tribunal heard, and said he deeply regretted it.
The Tribunal ordered a reprimand and that the pharmacist be disqualified from applying for registration until 30 September 2019.
Now, the District Court has heard that the 2014 suspension placed the pharmacist under “immense pressure”.
His defence lawyer, Michael Tudori, said that the pharmacist had been working 65-hour weeks as the only pharmacist in the store he had bought.
This workload “probably turned out to be his downfall,” Mr Tudori said, telling the Court that the AHPRA investigation meant the pharmacist had to employ others instead.
“Of course no single pharmacist is going to do 65 plus hours so he’s having to employ several pharmacists, trying to fight AHPRA or go through those proceedings [and it] was taking a huge toll on him,” he reportedly said.
Once the pharmacist’s registration was suspended, he had to sell the pharmacy at a “monstrous loss,” he said, highlighting the pharmacist’s remorse for the false PBS claims.
He pleaded guilty to dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage from the Commonwealth and was handed a 22-month sentence, with seven months served immediately.
The pharmacist is currently registered with AHPRA, but there are limitations on his practice, including that he not work as a proprietor pharmacist.