A pharmacist has had his registration cancelled after he sold S4 and S4D drugs in Sydney’s Star Casino car park for little more than wholesale price
The pharmacist, who had a significant gambling problem, was unable to account for a number of prescription medicines, including S4D medicines, at the Sydney pharmacy where he was employed by a relative as the manager and pharmacist in charge.
These drugs included 375 proprietary packs of clonazepam 2mg (approximately 37500 tablets); 290 proprietary packs of oxazepam 30mg (approximately 7250 tablets); 357 proprietary packs of diazepam 5mg (approximately 17850 tablets); and 418 proprietary packs of zolpidem 10mg (approximately 5852 tablets).
These drugs were unable to be accounted for between July 2015 and November 2016.
At the relevant time the man was responsible, as the pharmacy manager, for the accurate recording and storage of all drugs in the pharmacy.
These drugs were found to have been sold to another person, a different pharmacist identified at the hearing as ‘Person B’, in an “unprofessional and inappropriate manner” – that is, from the boot of the offending pharmacist’s car while it was parked at Star City Casino.
Between April 2012 and September 2016, the pharmacist was also found to have been unable to account for up to 344 packs of pseudoephedrine.
He was found to have dispensed around 16,250 tablets of Alprazolam 2mg – which was rescheduled from S4D to S8 in February 2014 – to another person, Person C, for an inappropriate therapeutic purpose and in an inappropriate quantity, for an inappropriate duration, dosage and frequency.
This was done without proper regard to Person C’s history of drug dependence and drug-seeking behaviour, and with no appropriate referral to specialist addiction services.
The pharmacist also dispensed about 322 tablets of Zolpidem Tartrate 10mg to this person, over several occasions.
A fourth person was dispensed around 3,250 tablets of Alprazolam 2mg, Valium 2mg, and Diazepam 5mg.
The pharmacist also inappropriately dispensed Alprazolam 2mg to Patient D, purportedly prescribed by a doctor, when he should have been able to identify that the scripts were fake, given that they were computer-generated, lacked prescriber and patient details and “did not consistently have the quantity of the medication outlined in words and figures”.
He inappropriately dispensed Durogesic 100mcg to a fifth and sixth patient when presented with forged scripts that he should have been able to identify.
The pharmacist gave evidence that he was working “very long” hours at the pharmacy, and in the period leading up to his illicit supply of drugs, he had a significant gambling problem.
He had lost at least $600,000 in the six months leading up to the behaviour.
One day, he met Person B in the casino, who was also gambling there and who showed him his AHPRA registration as a pharmacist.
Person B said he was only working one day a week and had been losing money, and approached the pharmacist to provide him with the drugs.
“The respondent suggested to the Tribunal that the basis on which he was providing the drugs to Person B was that he thought that as a pharmacist, it was simply a transfer of drugs from one pharmacy to another,” the Tribunal noted.
“However, in cross‑examination, he admitted that he knew that the drugs were being provided to Person B for illicit purposes and that they were being sold to the public by Person B.”
The pharmacist received very little profit on the supply of these drugs, he said – only rounding up to the nearest $5 from a wholesale price.
Regarding the inappropriate supply of medications on prescription, he said he “should have done better” but that he was under significant stress due to his gambling losses.
“The respondent can only have been aware, and he has admitted that he was aware, that the drugs were being illicitly sold into the public market,” the Tribunal noted.
“This admission and the fact that a registered pharmacist was knowingly and intentionally supplying drugs into the open market is of a serious nature and warrants deregistration.”
The pharmacist was found to be guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct.
His registration has been cancelled for three years, and he was ordered to pay costs.
He was also given a strong recommendation that before he seek re-registration, he seek professional help for his gambling addiction and demonstrate an “extensive” gambling free period; maintain his membership of the PSA; participate in continuing professional education, and complete a PSA ethics course.