‘Hundreds of prescriptions that should not have been issued.’

A GP blamed printer malfunctions and two patients for a large number of scripts for alprazolam, diazepam and testosterone to two patients

A GP’s registration has been cancelled for excessive prescribing of drugs of dependence, and for providing false or misleading evidence.

The Medical Board of Australia has issued a statement about Dr Richard Vucinic, noting that it referred him to the Victorian and Civil Administrative Tribunal in December 2018 for professional misconduct.

It alleged that he had been convicted in the County Court on 9 May 2018 of two counts of prescribing a drug of dependence without ensuring a therapeutic need.

The Board also alleged that he prescribed alprazolam and diazepam in excessive quantities and/or without clinical justification to three patients, and provided false and/or misleading evidence to the Board and/or the Ahpra purporting to establish compliance with the conditions of his registration.

The criminal charges had related to the prescribing to two patients between 27 December 2013 and 28 March 2014.

A third patient was also identified during an Ahpra investigation, to whom during this period Dr Vucinic prescribed excessive quantities of a drug of dependence and/or without clinical justification.

He had been working as a GP at five medical clinics between December 2013 and March 2014, treating Patients A and B, who lived together.

During a three-month period, he wrote 126 prescriptions for testosterone, alprazolam and diazepam for these patients: 4600 alprazolam tablets, 1350 diazepam tablets and an unknown amount of the testosterone.

While more than half the scripts never came to light, on 11 February 2014, police searched the patients’ home and found 36 unfilled scripts signed by Dr Vucinic.

Only 18 scripts – two for diazepam, one for testosterone and the others alprazolam – were ever filled.

When interviewed by police, the doctor said that it was appropriate to prescribe these drugs to these patients, but denied that he had written so many scripts.

Dr Vucinic disputed issuing the vast majority, claiming that it was the two patients – who were later charged with drug trafficking – who issued most of them.

He said this could have happened when he left them unattended in the consultation room, which he said happened “many times,” and for up to 20 minutes at a time.

Most of the scripts were never found and the majority never filled, he said.

He also said that there were “often printer malfunctions where the computer would record having issued a prescription but in reality no script would have been printed, so he would press the print button again”.

This could happen up to 15 times on the same occasion, he said, saying the printer malfunctions happened with five or six patients a day.

The doctor pleaded guilty and was convicted of the two charges and ordered to serve a community correction order for 18 months.

As a result of immediate action taken by the regulator, Dr Vucinic’s registration was made subject to conditions including that he not prescribe any drugs of dependence, including all S8s, benzodiazepines and anabolic steroids, from 19 June 2014 until October 2015.

But on 13 occasions during March 2015, the doctor prescribed benzodiazepines to his patients, the Board alleged – and in April, wrote a statutory declaration falsely stating he had complied with the conditions.

On 22 October 2015, the Board suspended Dr Vucinic’s registration by way of immediate action, after another, unrelated notification was made about him.

The Tribunal decided to cancel the practitioner’s registration and issue a reprimand.

He is disqualified from applying for registration as a medical practitioner for three years.

In its statement the Medical Board said that the Tribunal “noted that that Dr Vucinic’s conduct was not isolated but involved issuing of hundreds of prescriptions that should not have been issued”.

“All conduct related to his role as a medical practitioner. It also noted that although Dr Vucinic pleaded guilty to criminal offences, he now denied their factual basis.

“He was unwilling to take responsibility for his conduct, blamed others for the conduct and demonstrated little insight into the seriousness of his conduct and the effect it had on his patients and the public’s perception of the medical profession.

“The Tribunal also emphasised that disqualification for a period does not mean that a person will be registered at the end of that period. It means they cannot apply to be registered until that period ends.”

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