Censure across state lines

A pharmacist has been reprimanded in NSW for improperly obtaining medicines, just six months after he was struck off by a Queensland tribunal over stolen cash and drugs that led to criminal charges

A NSW tribunal has reprimanded a pharmacist and imposed several conditions on his practice after finding him guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct.

The pharmacist admitted to most of the particulars alleged by the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC), which related to his conduct between 25 May 2016 to 25 July 2016, while working as the pharmacist in charge on a full-time basis at a pharmacy in Tamworth, NSW.

Disciplinary proceedings were separate to those conducted in Queensland, where the pharmacist had lived and worked for over a decade until he came to work in NSW in May 2016.

The respondent pleaded guilty to 13 charges in the Magistrates Court at Brisbane on 16 December 2016, relating to theft of $4,400 from the pharmacy safe of a former workplace in Brisbane – where he had been previously employed as the pharmacist in charge – and unlawful possession of controlled or restricted drugs.

His registration was suspended in May 2017 after he breached conditions on his registration.

Due to these actions, the pharmacist was reprimanded by a Queensland tribunal and his registration cancelled (covered by AJP here). He is unable to apply for registration until 20 May 2021.

In separate NSW proceedings, orders of which were handed down on Tuesday, the pharmacist admitted that he improperly obtained 100 Ritalin 10mg tablets dispensed in the name of a patient for his personal use, while working in the Tamworth pharmacy in July 2016.

He also admitted to improperly obtaining 20 Antenex 5mg tablets dispensed in the name of a different patient for his personal use, and that on or about 22 July 2016, he failed to keep his personal bag in the storage area away from the medication dispensing area and from the sales counter.

Pharmacy staff observed CCTV footage that showed the pharmacist taking a box of medication out of the S8 safe and keeping it. The practitioner agreed he removed the box of Ritalin, covered it with paper and put it in his bag. As to the Antenex, there was a broken pack on the dispensing shelf, not labelled. He acknowledged that he was aware it was unlawful to have the Ritalin or Antenex at the time.

“The practitioner’s misconduct was serious, involving the inappropriate and unlawful taking from the pharmacy of S8 and S4 medications, which have the potential for abuse or misuse and which are tightly controlled,” found the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

The practitioner attempted to conceal his taking of the Ritalin and Antenex, as observed on the CCTV footage.

The pharmacist also admitted that he failed to follow the standard expected of a pharmacist when, in July 2016, he used two patients’ records including Webster pack header cards and patient dispensing details, during an interview with Queensland police, to demonstrate the Webster packing process.

He did not de-identify the records prior to showing them to the police.

However the pharmacist denied the HCCC’s allegation that he improperly obtained 63 Oxycontin 20mg tablets and 30 Oxycontin 40mg tablets dispensed in the name of a patient.

While Tribunal considered it plausible that the practitioner may have misappropriated the tablets, it was not satisfied that the evidence supported a positive finding that he did, bearing in mind the seriousness of the allegation.

Based on the proven particulars, the Tribunal found the pharmacist guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct, to which he admitted.

In orders handed down by the NSW tribunal this week, the pharmacist was reprimanded. Several conditions are to be imposed if and when the practitioner becomes registered again.

These include supervision for 12 months and a ban from working as a pharmacist in charge or as the sole pharmacist on duty for 12 months, among others.

He was also ordered to pay costs to the HCCC.

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