‘Fatigued, isolated and helpless.’

A pharmacist has been reprimanded after supplying herself with prescription medications while on duty, altering pharmacy records and making several dispensing errors

In late 2015 the pharmacist returned from maternity leave to work at a privately-owned pharmacy south-west of Melbourne.

However on her return she found out she had been overlooked for the position of pharmacist manager, which had earlier been promised to her by the employer and despite having been the pharmacist manager at another store owned by the same group prior to going on leave.

The pharmacist encountered difficulties in dealing with the person who was appointed as pharmacist manager, as well as managing the long hours at the pharmacy and lack of colleagues on whom she could rely to relieve her when sick.

A breakdown in the relationship with her manager and failed attempts at mediation led to the pharmacist being relocated to another pharmacy.

She also reported the pharmacist manager to AHPRA.

Conversely the pharmacist manager reported the pharmacist to AHPRA relating to her self-supply of medications and dispensing errors, which became the allegations considered by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in a recent hearing.

It was found that on three occasions between 2015 and 2016, the pharmacist supplied herself with metronidazole 400mg, amoxicillin 500mg, FML liquifilm eye drops 5ml and Advantan-Fatty ointment 0.1% 15g.

These were Schedule 4 restricted medications that the pharmacist did not have a prescription for.

On 17 December 2016, on or around her last day at the pharmacy, the pharmacist altered and/or deleted pharmacy records relating to her self-supply of these medications.

The Pharmacy Board of Australia pointed out that she had “improperly used her position” to access and supply the restricted medications to herself, for the purpose of self-administration.

Between 24 April and 7 September 2016, she was also found to have made a number of dispensing errors.

In one case, the pharmacist dispensed Ardix Glicazide Tab 60mg to a patient in circumstances where Imdur 60 Durule SR tablet 60mg had been prescribed.

In another instance, she dispensed a Mirena IUD to a patient in circumstances where the Implanon NXT had been prescribed.

Furthermore, she dispensed one patient’s prescription for Sevikar 40/10 under the incorrect name of a different patient.

The pharmacist admitted to the allegations and accepted she had made mistakes, indicating a willingness to accept any conditions the tribunal may impose.

Her counsel submitted that context of the offending was important, including that the pharmacist was a new parent, her partner had lost his job, and she had had to accept shifts despite the need for flexibility given her parenting responsibilities.

She had also been forced to accept a position that differed from the one she had been promised, had been “overloaded” at work and felt unsupported, with tensions between herself and the pharmacy manager.

Her counsel also submitted that the self-supply of medication occurred on occasions when the pharmacist was unwell and sought temporary relief of her symptoms, and when she was “fatigued, isolated and helpless”.

It was submitted that her deletion of records was “impulsive” rather than involving “deliberate concealment”.

The tribunal reprimanded the pharmacist for professional misconduct and unsatisfactory professional performance, with education and mentoring conditions placed on her registration.

While the Pharmacy Board sought a suspension period of at least three months, the tribunal decided the public would be best served by tailoring conditions on the pharmacist’s registration “to ensure that she continues to practice in an ethical manner”.

It considered that she is now working as a hospital pharmacist in a team of around 40 pharmacists, which could be regarded as a more supportive environment.

She must successfully complete a PSA course on ethics and dispensing, and another program of education approved by the Board and AHPRA on ethical and professional conduct.

She must also undergo mentoring by a senior pharmacist over six months.

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  1. (Mary) Kay Dunkley

    PSS encourages all pharmacists, interns and pharmacy students to seek help early in difficult times to avoid getting into a situation like this. It takes strength to admit we are struggling and asking for assistance is not a weakness. PSS offers non-judgemental support from someone who understands the pressures of pharmacy. All our volunteers are pharmacists or retired pharmacists who have been trained to help callers work out what to do next – a listening and supportive colleague as close as your phone. We are available on 1300244910 every day of the year between 8am and 11pm AEDST.

    • Janis Williams

      I called the helpline years ago when I was under severe stress. I was told the service was not for me but for those who had real problems like being held up.

      • kay dunkley

        Janis I am sorry that you received this insensitive response. In recent years PSS has changed our focus to recognise the impact that stress has on the well-being of pharmacists and that in turn this has an impact on our ability to serve our local communities as pharmacists.

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