Penalty over $22K pharmacy fraud

A South Melbourne pharmacy owner has been reprimanded and suspended for lodging 71 fraudulent PBS claims, which led to criminal charges

A Victorian tribunal has censured the owner and operator of a pharmacy in South Melbourne for criminal offences that also brought her before the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria.

Between October 2012 and January 2014 the pharmacist lodged 71 PBS claims with the Department of Human Services, for pharmaceutical items – namely insulin – that were not dispensed to any patients.

Fraudulent benefits were paid into a bank account associated with the pharmacy to the tune of $22,418.99.

The pharmacy owner admitted to lodging the fraudulent PBS claims after being approached by a compliance pharmacist in February 2014.

In April 2016 she pleaded guilty to one charge of obtaining financial advantage by deception in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria.

She was convicted and fined $7,500.

She was also ordered to pay back the full amount of fraudulent benefits and costs of $136.50. 

The pharmacist has reportedly duly paid those amounts.

Further to the criminal conviction, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has recently found that the pharmacist’s conduct amounted to professional misconduct.

“The conduct involved a serious criminal offence … over the period of about 15 months,” the tribunal found in a decision handed down on 29 June.

“[It was] in breach of the trust placed in registered pharmacists by the Department of Health – Medicare, which relies on the honesty of such practitioners for the integrity and viability of the PBS scheme.

“Pharmacists are regarded as role models,” said the tribunal, adding that society expects professional behaviour from those in the profession “which warrants trust and respect”.

The pharmacy owner was reprimanded for her conduct, with her registration to be suspended for six months.

This period of suspension will commence following the sale of her pharmacy, which is anticipated to take place by November 2018.

She was also ordered to undertake mentoring.

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