Pharmacist found guilty, reprimanded for thefts

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A pharmacist has been reprimanded and conditions imposed on his registration after he stole S8 medicines and falsified records

In February 2015, the owner of two Chemist Warehouses contacted the Pharmacy Board to inform them that one of her employees had engaged in thefts and falsified the records.

During the same month, the employee pharmacist admitted to the Board that he had forged or dispensed scripts under false names for alprazolam for his own personal use.

In July 2015 he admitted misappropriating alprazolam tablets from two other pharmacies – typically 50 tablets on each occasion.

He also admitted self-administration of the alprazolam, which had begun in 2014, and falsifying or omitting records to conceal these activities.

However the pharmacist had also lied in an earlier (April 2015) interview with a representative of the Department of Health and Human Services, claiming he had misappropriated alprazolam only at the two Chemist Warehouses where he worked, and claiming the self-administration had begun only in 2015.

The pharmacist was fired and signed an undertaking in February 2015 not to practise as a pharmacist.

In May 2016, he pleaded guilty in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria to 15 charges, and was sentenced to pay a fine, without conviction, of $10,000. He was also ordered to pay $9,000 in court costs.

It was established that at four pharmacies, he variously supplied alprazolam without taking reasonable steps to verify that the prescription was written by the purported prescriber.

He was found to have self-administered the drug without prescription, supplied schedule 8 poison on a prescription which he had reason to believe had been forged or was fraudulent, knowingly made a false entry regarding section schedule 8 poison, and failed to record schedule 8 poison transaction details.

The pharmacist, who has a past diagnosis of substance use disorder – specifically benzodiazepine addiction – admitted that his conduct amounted to professional misconduct.

At a hearing before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, the tribunal noted that the pharmacist “not only misappropriated Schedule 8 medications from three separate employers, but also created false and misleading dispensing records”.

“He failed to record receipt of alprazolam tablets delivered to a pharmacy where he was working.

“He knowingly dispensed a forged prescription and failed to comply with his obligation to report a forged prescription. He was untruthful or misleading in an interview with his employer regarding the misappropriation of the Schedule 8 medication and was untruthful or misleading in an interview with Drugs and Poisons Regulation as well as during a health assessment.

“These are extremely serious matters,” found the tribunal.

“It would be a serious matter for any health professional to self-administer alprazolam. It is particularly serious for a dispensing pharmacist to do so. The community entrusts pharmacists with the safe and appropriate dispensing of pharmaceuticals.”

The tribunal noted that the conduct took place over an extended period and that even when the conduct was detected, the pharmacist was only cooperative to a degree, not immediately admitting to its full extent.

His conduct “breached the trust placed in him as a registered pharmacist, by the community, and his employer(s),” it found.

“It brought the profession of pharmacy into disrepute. We are satisfied that his conduct amounts to professional misconduct.”

The pharmacist has since stopped using alprazolam.

While he has not worked as a pharmacist since his conduct was uncovered, he has worked with pharmaceutical companies, which the tribunal noted indicated a desire to maintain a connection with his profession.

Altogether it found that the pharmacist had engaged in professional misconduct, and issued a reprimand.

Conditions imposed upon his registration include that he undergo urine and hair drug screening, see a psychiatrist, and be mentored by another pharmacist should he work in a pharmacy in any capacity other than in execution of his role as a self-employed home medication review pharmacist, within six months of the date of this decision.

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