A NSW doctor fooled colleagues and pharmacists with falsified scripts for OxyContin that ended up totalling 2,856 tablets
The 34-year-old doctor had been deregistered for at least three years after it was found he forged 51 scripts for 80mg OxyContin tablets, which were purportedly for patients but in fact for himself.
These scripts were written over a period of about seven months in 2013, totalling 2,856 80mg OxyContin tablets.
The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal found during the course of its hearing that the respondent had developed an addiction to the opioids over time, which drove him to amass a stash of the drugs.
He graduated as a medical doctor in 2006 in Iran and arrived in Australia in 2008.
At the time of the offences he was working as a registrar in the emergency department of Blacktown and Mt Druitt hospitals.
In early March 2013, the tribunal found the respondent had commenced writing prescriptions for OxyContin and having them dispensed at pharmacies.
In September 2013 he was contacted by the Pharmaceutical Services Unit (PSU) regarding three prescriptions which were written for the same patient, but he denied having written about them and alleged they were forgeries.
However the story soon unravelled as a pharmacist called the hospital about a prescription presented for dispensing.
It was found that the nominated patient had never actually been treated at the emergency department.
The respondent had made up fictitious names for the scripts, the tribunal discovered, with eight names used altogether including the name of a friend and associate.
Sixteen of the 51 scripts were written under the name of the associate.
“I was addicted to them. I was desperate,” he later told PSU representatives.
An unreliable witness
The tribunal says it found the respondent to be an “extremely evasive”, “unreliable” and “inconsistent” witness.
He denied selling any of the medication and denied the suggestion that he was part of “an Oxycontin ring,” stating that he had used some “to treat pain in a shoulder, anxiety, insomnia and panic attacks,” but admitted he had developed a physical dependence on the opioids.
He also claimed that the addiction began after a romantic relationship broke down, his mother died and he failed the clinical Australian Medical Council examination for the third time, by which time it began to spiral out of control.
Despite evidence to show the respondent had more than 20 scripts filled at a single pharmacy, he denied the claim.
He claimed he only used about 450 of the 2,856 tablets, with a balance of about 2,400 unaccounted for – which he claims he threw in the garbage bin, but in other accounts says he flushed down the toilet.
When asked about his drug use and disposal, the doctor’s testimony changed several times throughout the hearing, according to a transcript of the proceedings.
At one point he denied any wrongdoing but changed his response when being cross-examined.
The doctor also told the tribunal he had never used any illicit drugs intravenously. However, the records of ambulance staff who attended him for a methadone overdose to Ryde Hospital recorded: “track marks are on bilateral forearms” and “poor vascular presentation and unable to be cannulated”.
The hospital had on record that he told a staff member he was injecting OxyContin into his wrist, the tribunal heard.
It also found the respondent had lied about consulting with a psychiatrist and attending a group counselling session for treatment when he had in fact not.
Orders of the tribunal
At the time of the hearing, the respondent had resigned from his hospital position after disciplinary procedures were taken by his employer, and was working as a general practitioner in Mt Ku-Ring-Gai.
He was under conditions to provide drug urine tests three times a week.
The tribunal decided these restrictions were not enough, saying his behaviour constituted “serious instances of unsatisfactory professional conduct, breaches of the law and serious dishonesty”.
It found the respondent had used the OxyContin on occasions when he was rostered on duty at the hospitals, and “given his addiction and his lack of integrity, poses a risk to the public”.
“Together they constitute professional misconduct so serious as to justify cancellation of his registration,” said the tribunal.
It ruled that the respondent could not reapply for registration for three years from the date of the decision (20 July 2019).
He was also ordered to pay the full cost of the proceedings.
“Indeed, the extensive false evidence given by the respondent in the proceedings and untenable positions adopted in his replies have unnecessarily made the proceedings more complicated, extended the length of the hearing and unnecessarily increased the costs of both parties, the tribunal ruled.