Facing the consequences

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A NSW pharmacist who dispensed S8 medications to patients with forged scripts must now undergo a stringent practice audit and year-long mentoring

In August 2014, NSW Police reported to the Pharmaceutical Services Unit of the NSW Department of Health that forged prescriptions for “drugs of addiction” had been dispensed from a western Sydney pharmacy.

The pharmacy owner admitted to dispensing, or permitting to be dispensed, Schedule 8 medication where the form of the prescriptions did not comply with legislative requirements.

This amounted to 20 prescriptions for alprazolam, morphine and oxycodone made out to five different patients.

While the pharmacist was recorded as the dispensing pharmacist for each of these scripts, he claimed his staff sometimes used his log-in details to access the pharmacy’s dispensing system.

Nine scripts for alprazolam did not identify the intervals of repeats as required.

A further 34 scripts for alprazolam, morphine and oxycodone were found to be forged; the pharmacist denied he ought reasonably to have known that the prescriptions were forged.

The pharmacist admitted that his conduct constituted unsatisfactory professional conduct, but not professional misconduct.

The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal found the pharmacist’s admissions constituted both unsatisfactory professional conduct and professional misconduct, but agreed that it was not reasonable that the pharmacist ought reasonably to have known that each of the 34 prescriptions were forged.

While the Health Care Complaints Commission called for suspension or cancellation of the practitioner’s registration, the tribunal issued the pharmacist with a reprimand instead, considering that he had “taken steps to remedy the defects in his practice and knowledge”.

He was also ordered to pay costs to the Commission.

This week the tribunal published an update of conditions on his registration, which included some amendments.

The reprimand stands as is.

The pharmacist must be mentored by a registered experienced pharmacist for a minimum period of 12 months.

At each meeting the pharmacist is to review and discuss his practice with his approved mentor with a particular focus on management of his pharmacy practice; supervision of pharmacy staff; and compliance with his obligations pursuant to the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 1966 (NSW) and the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2008 (NSW).

The pharmacist is to authorise the mentor to report to the Council every three months about the meetings, and to inform the Council if there is any concern about his professional conduct, health or personal wellbeing. He is to meet all costs associated with the mentoring conditions.

While the pharmacist subsequently sold his interest in the pharmacy at which the conduct occurred, he currently still owns another one.

Under the conditions, the pharmacist must submit to an audit of his practice by a person nominated by the Council.

The auditor will examine and assess the pharmacist’s dispensary systems; the storage, supply, recording and destruction of drugs including drugs of addiction, then issue a report on its findings.

Additionally the pharmacist is to submit to a performance assessment conducted by a person nominated by the Council this year.

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