Censure after trans-Tasman drug thefts

After stealing Ritalin and surrendering his registration to practise in Australia, a pharmacist went home to New Zealand and offended again

The pharmacist had his New Zealand registration cancelled after a decision made at the New Zealand Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal in a case published this month.

The pharmacist was first registered as an intern with the Pharmacy Council New Zealand in 2009, and in 2013, moved to Sydney, where he registered with the Pharmacy Board in February.

Between March and November 2016, he was investigated by the Health Care Complaints Commission for alleged theft of Ritalin tablets from the pharmacy where he had worked.

His registration with the Board was suspended in April, until October 2016, and from October a condition was placed on his registration that he not practise the profession.

After being notified by the NSW Ministry of Health in May 2016, the PCNZ wrote to the pharmacist to advise him that it knew about the allegations and the investigation, and remind him that he was not legally entitled to practise as a pharmacist in New Zealand.

He moved back to New Zealand, and in November 2016, the pharmacist requested that AHPRA let him surrender his registration, and his name was removed from the register.

That month, AHPRA was notified that the outcome of the investigation was a finding that the pharmacist had misappropriated 6900 Ritalin tablets from his former employer for his personal use, over a two-year period.

However no steps were taken, because the pharmacist had surrendered his registration and expressed an intention to start studying in a different field.

Before he had asked for his Australian registration to be surrendered, the pharmacist moved back across the Tasman to Dunedin, on the South Island.

There he found work in a temporary role as a technician in October 2016, covering the owner and operator’s tasks for five days while she was on leave.

He did not disclose to her that he had been under investigation in Australia over the Ritalin, or that the PCNZ had written to him in May telling him he was not entitled to practise in New Zealand.

Because he did not have an Annual Practising Certificate, he was only supposed to perform technician tasks.

But while employed at the pharmacy, the practitioner “completed tasks that fell within the registered pharmacist scope of practice, including, but not limited to, handling, preparing and dispensing medicines”.

At around 4.21pm on Thursday, 6 October (his second-last day at the pharmacy), he went to the Controlled Drug safe at the back room to put medicine in it.

“Having done so, he took out a packet of Rubifen and placed this into his trouser pocket,” the Tribunal noted.

He put the medication (also a Methylphenidate hydrochloride drug) into the pocket of his jacket, which was hanging up in the same room.

“At the end of his shift… he took his jacket with the Rubifen in the pocket and went home. The packet of Rubifen contained 30 x 10 mg tablets,” said the Tribunal.

On 13 October he told police that he took the Rubifen for his own personal use, and that he needed help for his addiction to the drug.

He entered a plea in Christchurch District Court on a charge of stealing the drug, and was convicted and sentenced to 150 hours community work.

At the Tribunal hearing, he said he was not aware that not having an Annual Practising Certificate meant he should not work as a pharmacist technician, and that his employer had not objected to his working under these circumstances.

The Tribunal found that the pharmacist had been convicted of an offence that reflected adversely on his fitness to practise, and that he had practised as a pharmacist in the scope of pharmacy during the week’s work in October 2016, without a current APC.

It cancelled the pharmacist’s registration.

It also censured him, fined him NZ$500 (AUD$465) for practising without an APC and ordered him to pay costs of NZ$8,000 (AUD$7,432).

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