Former pharmacist loses bid for reinstatement

Tribunal not convinced the former pharmacist in charge had reformed, two years after being struck off for dispensing $10,000 worth of drugs ‘off books’ to a patient

A pharmacist who was found guilty of professional misconduct, reprimanded and consequently struck off the register in 2015 has had his application for re-registration dismissed.

The conduct occurred at a Western Sydney pharmacy in 2012, where the pharmacist had been employed as the pharmacist in charge for a decade.

In March 2012, he was made a casual employee after new managers took over the pharmacy, and a few months later his position was made permanent.

However in September, the pharmacy’s new managers discovered a number of irregularities in the pharmacy’s dispensing records and terminated the pharmacist’s employment.

In 2015, the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal found the pharmacist in charge had supplied significant quantities of Schedule 4, Schedule 4D and Schedule 8 drugs without prescriptions, and had created false dispensing records in the pharmacy’s computing system in relation to these drugs.

It also found he had created false records in the Schedule 8 drug register and failed to record prescriptions on this register.

The conduct related to medications such as OxyContin, Endone, Viagra, Levitra, Cialis, Duromine, Ritalin, Norspan, Concerta and Eleva.

He was unable to account for hundreds of tablets of Schedule 4 and Schedule 8 medicines.

The wholesale cost of drugs dispensed to one patient was stated by the pharmacy business manager to be over $10,000, while the entries in the pharmacy’s books recorded that on each occasion these drugs were supplied at zero price.

In the original proceedings the pharmacist denied most of the particulars of the Complaint found proven by the Tribunal.

The pharmacist had “wilfully and deliberately engaged in a course of conduct whereby he abused his position as a pharmacist to defraud his employer,” the Tribunal found.

His registration was cancelled and he was prohibited from applying for review of that order for two years.

After two years had elapsed, the former pharmacist faced the Tribunal late last year to apply for a review of the cancellation order.

He submitted that he now “unreservedly accepts” that he engaged in the conduct found proven by the Tribunal.

He stated that would not repeat the conduct which led to the cancellation of his registration, and that in the future he would act in accordance with the high standards and responsibilities of the profession, and gave an unreserved apology for being dishonest in the initial hearing.

The former pharmacist tendered three references in support of his application for reinstatement.

Regarding the supply of medication that had a wholesale value of over $10,000, he claimed that he had charged customers a discounted price for the medicines and said he had succumbed to pressure from members of his local Middle Eastern community.

However in its decision handed down last week, the Tribunal said “we remain troubled by a number of aspects of [the pharmacist]’s evidence”.

“The first is his continued tendency to minimise the extent of his own real responsibility. He sought to deflect the full weight of blame for his predicament by attaching some of it onto the community to which he belongs.

“He was claiming, in effect, that he had been manipulated through his own misguided notions of trying to act as a good neighbour or friend into becoming complicit in evading rules designed to protect public health and safety. The implication was that, in doing so, he had really intended no harm,” stated the Tribunal.

“Even if his assertion is true, one of his key roles as a pharmacist was to protect the public from themselves in such situations.”

The Tribunal also remained “troubled” by what they believed was an implausible account of his discount transactions.

“Our impression is that we have not been given a fully frank account of what actually was happening,” it said.

“Because of the implausibility of his explanation for his unauthorised and unlawful dispensing of a large quantity of prescription drugs, we are unable to accept her opinion that [the pharmacist] is genuinely contrite except in the sense that he is now sorry that his conduct has led to his current situation,” the Tribunal found.

It stated that while the former pharmacist has the potential to be re-registered at some time in the future, it was “not satisfied that he has discharged his burden of proof at this review”.

His application for reinstatement was dismissed, with costs to be decided.

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