Over 40 criminal charges for forged and stolen scripts


A health practitioner used white out to create a phony script for morphine – but a pharmacist spotted the fraud and called police

A former medical radiation practitioner from Queensland has been reprimanded over a string of offences for which he was charged and convicted in 2016.

In the first instance, while a registered health practitioner, the man consulted a doctor who wrote him a script for Sertraline.

Sometime between 28 and 31 March 2016, the respondent used white out to erase sertraline from the script and wrote “Morphine Sulphate, 30 milligrams” onto the script, according to court documents.

He then presented the script to the Chemist Warehouse at Lawnton with the intention of collecting morphine.

The pharmacist did not dispense the medication and instead called the police, following which the respondent made full admissions.

In addition, while employed at XRadiology in Toowong, the man was found to have stolen scripts and prescription pads and presented 16 forged scripts, all for morphine sulphate, at three pharmacies in Brisbane.

He was also found to have obtained sertraline without a script after stating to the pharmacist that his doctor would fax the script over. The fax never arrived.

In May 2016, the man pleaded guilty in the Brisbane Magistrates Court to 15 charges relating to the stealing, forging and unauthorised filling of prescriptions for morphine and on one occasion obtaining Sertraline without authority. A conviction was recorded for all offences.

The Magistrate sentenced the respondent to an 18-month probation order with conditions including one that he submit to medical, psychiatric or psychological assessment and treatment.

The man was suspended from registration as a medical radiation practitioner in 29 April 2016. He was also the subject of further charges later that year.

In April 2016, the man presented a stolen script for morphine at two pharmacies. It was purportedly signed by a doctor on a date that he or she was overseas. Neither of the pharmacies filled the script.

In an additional instance, dating to 5 April 2015, the health practitioner obtained a doctor’s blank prescription pad from a private hospital. He handwrote patient details on the script, as well as the requested medication, being a five-ampoule pack of morphine, nil repeats. The prescription was dated 4 April 2015 and purportedly signed. The respondent then presented the script to a local medical centre pharmacy, but it was not dispensed upon.

During several dates between April and August 2016, the man forged scripts for morphine sulphate by completing the details and signing a blank prescription, uttering the forged document, and then committed fraud by obtaining the medication from the chemist.

In November 2016, the man pleaded guilty to 27 criminal charges, relating to stealing, forging and unauthorised filling of prescriptions for morphine. These were separate to the 15 charges he was convicted for in May.

The Magistrate sentenced the former practitioner to a term of six months’ imprisonment wholly suspended, with conditions not to commit an offence punishable by imprisonment for a period of two years. A conviction was recorded for all offences.

In addition to the charges related to fraudulent prescriptions, the respondent was also convicted of other offences.

In 2014 on his own plea of guilty of an offence of using a carriage service to menace, harass or cause offence, and was fined $1,000. The offending involved sending offensive text messages to another person in September 2013.

On 2 August 2017, the respondent was convicted of seven counts of fraud, apparently resulting in 84 transactions unrelated to pharmacy or medicines items.

On 18 October 2018, the respondent pleaded guilty to stealing a packet of Codral Cold and Flu tablets on 19 September 2018 from a pharmacy at Toowong. He was sentenced on that occasion to perform 40 hours of unpaid community service and ordered to make restitution of $26.50.

The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal was satisfied that the former health practitioner, whose registration lapsed in April 2019, engaged in professional misconduct.

“Acts of stealing, forging and obtaining drugs by dishonest means is conduct that is totally unacceptable to any registered health practitioner, and is conduct that is disgraceful and substantially below the standard reasonably expected of a health practitioner,” said the Tribunal in a recent ruling.

“The seriousness of the respondent’s conduct here is compounded by the fact that he committed further offending whilst suspended, and subsequently, while subject to court orders.”

The Health Ombudsman noted that the respondent entered early pleas of guilty to his offending and according to various medical reports, he appears to have had a “very traumatic” childhood and had become addicted to opioids after being prescribed morphine for back pain.

The Tribunal decided that, given a lack of up-to-date evidence and the guarded nature of the most recent medical evidence about the respondent’s impairment, a prohibition order for a fixed term would be arbitrary and undesirable.

It ruled that he be prohibited from providing any health service until such time as he obtains registration as a health practitioner.

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3 Comments

  1. PeterC
    09/03/2021

    I wish when referring to pharmacists, especially in the context of performing our clinical and legal duties, journalists would use the correct term ‘pharmacist’, as used in legislation and which accurately depicts our role. In Australia the predecessors to today’s pharmacists were trained as ‘Pharmaceutical Chemists’ but that stopped around 60 years ago and ‘chemistry’ is only a tiny part of how we are trained and what we actually do in our work. I understand that the general public still refers to ‘chemists’ when they mean ‘pharmacist’ or ‘pharmacy’ but that shouldn’t be a reason to do perpetuate the error in our own professional journals

  2. PeterC
    09/03/2021

    I wish when referring to pharmacists, especially in the context of performing our clinical and legal duties, journalists would use the correct term ‘pharmacist’, as used in legislation and which accurately depicts our role. In Australia the predecessors to today’s pharmacists were trained as ‘Pharmaceutical Chemists’ but that stopped around 60 years ago and ‘chemistry’ is only a tiny part of how we are trained and what we actually do in our work. I understand that the general public still refers to ‘chemists’ when they mean ‘pharmacist’ or ‘pharmacy’ but that shouldn’t be a reason to do perpetuate the error in our own professional journals

    • Sheshtyn Paola
      09/03/2021

      Hi Peter,

      Thanks very much for the comment. The word ‘chemist’ slipped into the article as it was the word that was used in the legal/court documents on which this story was based. However in general we also prefer to use ‘pharmacist’ at AJP. Good point and thanks for the reminder.

      Kind regards,
      Sheshtyn Paola (author, AJP)

      Edited to add: I have updated the terminology in the article.

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