A Sydney GP is facing a tribunal after a pharmacist reported him for being “off his face”, and for prescribing oxycodone to a family member
The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal has refused a doctor’s application for a stay on conditions that prohibit him from supplying or prescribing S8 and S4D drugs, with an appeal set for later in the year.
Conditions were placed on the GP’s registration after he was reported to the Medical Council of NSW last year.
The Pharmaceutical Regulatory Unit (PRU) made the complaint in October 2018 after a pharmacist noticed the GP was displaying “slurred speech, glassy eyes and a staggering gait” when he collected prescriptions on one occasion.
On another occasion he was “so confused and off his face” that he left the pharmacy without his prescription or paying for it, according to the pharmacist—allegations which the practitioner disputed.
The PRU also alleged the practitioner prescribed drugs for a close family member including 10 prescriptions for oxycodone, and presented prescriptions for oxycodone and alprazolam “For doctor’s use only”.
After the Medical Council instigated proceedings in November 2018, the practitioner underwent positive drug tests showing use of cocaine.
He subsequently conceded he had used a “small amount of cocaine” at music festivals in 2018 and ecstasy at a festival while overseas in July 2018.
Four conditions were imposed on his registration including requirements to practise in accordance with guidelines for self-treatment and treatment of relatives, to advise the Council of any change in place of practice, and to provide authority for exchange of information between the Council and Medicare.
A mentoring condition was also imposed as were health conditions, including a requirement for regular urine drug screens and hair drug screens.
Meanwhile a Council-appointed psychiatrist diagnosed the practitioner as meeting the criteria mild stimulant use disorder.
The psychiatrist recommended he should enter the Impaired Registrants Panel (IRP) and continue thrice weekly urine testing and ongoing quarterly hair testing.
In August 2019, the doctor attended the offices of the PRU and consented to an order made under the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2008 (NSW) prohibiting him to possess, supply, administer or prescribe Schedule 8 and Schedule 4D drugs.
He subsequently filed an appeal as well as application for a stay on these two conditions, arguing that as a sole practitioner, they would have “the potential to significantly affect” his practice.
There was no adverse evidence that had come to light since the original conditions were imposed, he added.
Furthermore a second psychiatrist report from August concluded the GP had “no identifiable substance abuse disorder”.
The Medical Council submitted that a stay would have no practical effect as the practitioner has already yielded his prescribing authority to the PRU.
They referred to his prescribing for a close associate, the manner in which he destroyed drugs obtained for his doctor’s bag, and his appearance as initially reported by the pharmacist who initiated the complaint.
The Council submitted that until the matters can be fully explored at the appeal, there may be a risk to the public if the stay is granted.
Deputy President of the Tribunal, the Hon Acting Judge Jennifer Boland, concluded that after “carefully weighing all relevant factors” the best course of action was to refuse the stay and expedite the appeal.
“Although upsetting to the practitioner, his practice will not be seriously impacted by the imposition of the two conditions for the short period until the hearing of the appeal,” she said.
“The risk, if any, to the public is ameliorated pending the full ventilation of the matters relevant to the appeal.”
The GP’s appeal of the conditions on his registration is listed for hearing on 12 November, while an Impaired Registrants Panel is scheduled to be heard on 11 October.