Tribunal cracks down on overprescribing doctor

A NSW GP has been struck off for overprescribing drugs of addiction to patients, including known doctor shoppers

Dr David George West, 75, has had his registration cancelled following proceedings brought before the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal by the HCCC.

Dr West, who principally practised in far northern NSW, had been a medical practitioner since 1966 and conducted a solo medical practice since 1990 in the area where the misconduct occurred.

In a hearing before the tribunal, the HCCC alleged that Dr West had acted in a way that amounted to professional misconduct regarding his dealings with eight patients, for whom he had prescribed drugs of addiction without obtaining a proper history of any drug abuse or dependency, or a proper authority to do so.

For one patient, Dr West prescribed diazepam, nitrazepam, fentanyl and buprenorphine, and continued to do so after he became aware the patient was on the Prescription Shopping Program.

It was alleged that he continued to prescribe fentanyl to this patient in circumstances where he knew she was extracting fentanyl from the patches and injecting the drug.

Another was prescribed 315 days’ worth of fentanyl within the space of 191 days, in addition to other drugs such as oxycodone, buprenorphine, oxazepam and nitrazepam.

It was also alleged Dr West had failed to maintain adequate medical records for seven of the eight patients in question.

The tribunal found Dr West guilty of professional misconduct for “failure to properly treat a cohort of patients who may have been drug-seeking… failure to take and document a proper history, a failure to carry out and document proper examinations, and a failure to prepare and document appropriate treatment programs”.

While he had acknowledged some of these failures in his written statement, the tribunal stated that he was more inclined to blame the patients for having failed to follow his oral instructions about how much medication to take and when for his current troubles than his own shortcomings.

The bulk of Dr West’s practice was from the surrounding low socioeconomic group including indigenous patients in the area.

“We have little confidence that the respondent would not offend again,” said the tribunal in its decision, adding that his professional misconduct was “of a most serious kind”.

“This misconduct was not confined to a few cases. It extended to a significant number of patients over a considerable period of time.

“It persisted even though the respondent was either aware, or should have been aware, that some of the patients were drug-seeking and drug-dependent.

“By his conduct, the respondent fed their dependency.”

The tribunal cancelled Dr West’s medical registration effective from 29 March 2017.

He is unable to apply for a review of the decision for 24 months from this date.

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