A pharmacist noticed that a nurse’s script for Duromine was unlikely to be genuine… resulting in the nurse being reprimanded
The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal has heard the case of a nurse who was working at a hospital as a Unit Manager, Operating Theatres, when she stole three blank scripts, forged prescriptions for Duromine, and presented them to pharmacies.
The Tribunal heard that the nurse had a “complex” registration history.
In 2004, a NSW private hospital where she had worked made a notification that she had stolen three medical officer prescription pads while on duty in the operating theatre; falsified prescriptions for Duromine in the name of her mother and a male friend; and presented the falsified prescriptions to three different pharmacists on three different occasions.
In 2005, a Board panel decided that she would benefit from psychological counselling and adjourned its decision, later deciding not to impose conditions on her registration.
In 2010, a complaint was made to the NSW regulator in which it was alleged that she entered the Newcastle Private Hospital and dishonestly procured a prescription pad from operating theatres within the hospital.
In her response to the regulator, she said she had realised she had run out of her prescribed Zoloft and did not have a repeat, so she texted a colleague to get her a blank script from the drug cupboard, but the colleague gave her a pad instead.
She said she had pocketed the prescription pad and gone home, knowing her doctor at work could write a script, but her former nurse manager had phoned her to ask for the pad to be returned, which she did.
Again, authorities referred the nurse for counselling and the matter was closed.
In October 2018, the nurse pleaded guilty in the local Magistrate’s Court to three counts of forgery, three counts of uttering, and two counts of fraud.
While temporarily working in the Queensland town, she had put on weight, and with her history of eating disorders and body dysmorphia, began to become obsessive about her weight gain.
While she had been prescribed Duromine in the past, she knew she would not be prescribed the medicine again because she was on medication for high blood pressure.
On three different occasions in September and early October 2018, the nurse obtained a blank script from the hospital where she worked, each bearing the stamp of a gynaecologist there.
On each occasion she forged a script for Duromine 30 tablets and presented it at a pharmacy.
She was successful the first time attending a particular pharmacy, but the second time, the pharmacist noticed that the script was handwritten, and unlikely to have been written by the gynaecologist.
She was successful the third time she presented a forged script – at a different pharmacy – but was arrested on 11 October and charged.
After pleading guilty, she was fined $500 and no convictions were recorded.
She was stood down from her position at the hospital on the day she was arrested, though at the time of the hearing was still registered.
When the Health Ombudsman was notified that she had been charged with these offences, it was determined that she was had an impairment, and the matter was referred to AHPRA.
The Tribunal accepted that for a long period, including during the 2004 incident – “which involved strikingly similar behaviour” – the nurse had been suffering from undiagnosed bipolar disorder and other disorders.
These stemmed from her dysfunctional childhood and a history of emotional and physical abuse from her former partner, who “constantly belittled her for being overweight”.
Since November 2018, she had been under the care of a clinical psychologist and, after initial treatment for alcohol dependence and a severe depressive disorder with atypical features, she was prescribed Abilify.
The psychologist said that during the most recent offending the nurse had been in a “hyper manic phase of an undiagnosed bipolar disorder” but had responded very well to treatment.
He said she was “enormously regretful and shows great remorse for her behaviour”.
The Tribunal said it was satisfied that the nurse’s behaviour constituted professional misconduct, and reprimanded her.
It imposed conditions on her registration for six months, including that she continue treatment with her treating team and acknowledge that regulators may seek reports from these practitioners on a regular basis.