Pharmacist reprimanded after arrest, conviction

A Sydney owner has been banned from working as a pharmacist in charge or sole pharmacist for two years following a criminal conviction for importing prohibited goods

A tribunal has reprimanded an Inner West Sydney pharmacist proprietor and extended conditions on his registration after he was charged and convicted for importing 7.5kg of testosterone into Australia.

In 2016, Australian Federal Police (AFP) seized 2.5kg of testosterone benzoate and 5kg of testosterone enanthate, leading to the man’s arrest.

On 21 February 2019, the practitioner pleaded guilty to two offences of import of a prohibited import in the District Court of NSW, Sydney.

He was convicted of both offences, with an aggregate sentence that he be released without passing sentence by recognizance, upon giving security, and that he comply with a condition that he enter into a good behaviour bond for a term not exceeding 12 months.

In his record of interview with AFP officers, the pharmacist said that he was importing the testosterone for the purpose of conducting experiments to see whether he could compound a product which could then be prescribed by medical practitioners.

He stated that he thought that there was a potential market for compounding testosterone products and was intent on creating some “intellectual property” which he could exploit for profit. He said that he had also imported the testosterone for his own use.

The pharmacist also kept a further 2kg of testosterone unlabelled in a refrigerator in the pharmacy which was accessible to his staff.

There is no evidence that the respondent was aware of the requirement to obtain a permit to import to testosterone products.

However an expert told the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal that an experienced pharmacist should have been aware of the possibility that a permit might be required to import the substances.

“On the evidence, he failed to make any appropriate or reasonable enquiries as to whether any permit would be required, other than a casual enquiry of someone in the context of the importation of substances for cosmetic purposes,” the tribunal found.

Despite his evidence concerning the reason for the importation of the testosterone, the quantity which he sought to import – namely 7.5kg – was out of proportion to his stated reason for importation, it added.

This amount of testosterone would have produced the equivalent of 30,000 clinical doses.

The Health Care Complaints Commission’s expert witness said stockpiling of such a large amount of a restricted substance without legitimate orders or prescriptions caused the respondent’s conduct to fall significantly below the standard reasonably expected of a practitioner of an equivalent level of training or experience.

The substance was a regulated substance and considered to be potentially dangerous to the public, said the tribunal.

Conditions were imposed on the respondent’s registration in October 2016. While he sought a review of the conditions in May 2019, this bid was rejected.

However in the respondent’s favour, the tribunal found that the pharmacist did not seek to hide the importation of the substance, and there is no suggestion that it was to be used other than for the respondent’s own personal use or for the pursuit of his experimentation.

He had also expressed remorse for his conduct and there was evidence that the consequences for him of being subjected to police procedures, including arrest, detention and the criminal court process has had an effect on his health and wellbeing.

The Tribunal found the pharmacist guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct for failing to notify the National Board of the charges and convictions within seven days.

He was reprimanded and ordered not to work as a pharmacist in charge or as the sole pharmacist on duty for a period of 24 months, or such longer period of time as determined by the Pharmacy Council of New South Wales.

The pharmacist must not possess, supply, dispense, administer or manufacture any Schedule 8, Schedule 4B or Schedule 4D substance for at least 24 months.

He has been ordered to undergo mentoring by an experienced pharmacist approved by the Council for a period of 24 months; apply for, obtain and maintain Quality Care Pharmacy Program (QCPP) accreditation; and undergo regular audits.

He must not allow any aseptic or other form of complex compounding to take place in any pharmacy in which he has a financial interest, or participate in any such compounding.

The pharmacist is also banned from allowing the compounding or manufacturing of any preparation containing testosterone to take place in any pharmacy in which he has a financial interest.

He was ordered not to keep any substances at the pharmacy that are not required for the ordinary operation of the pharmacy.

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