A pharmacist who self-medicated with Duromine, Diazepam and Modavigil has been permitted to rejoin the profession, with conditions
In June 2017, in proceedings brought by the Health Care Complaints Commission, the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal found that the pharmacist’s conduct constituted unsatisfactory professional conduct and professional misconduct.
Her registration as a pharmacist was cancelled for at least 12 months and she was also ordered not to work as a pharmacy assistant during this time.
After 12 months passed, the pharmacist sought a reinstatement order.
The Tribunal noted that its earlier findings of unsatisfactory professional conduct and professional misconduct were because between October 2013 to August 2014, she dispensed medicines to a relative and to herself without a valid script.
The medicines she dispensed to herself were Duromine, Diazepam and Modavigil, and the Tribunal recorded in its previous hearing that the combination of Duromine and Modovigil would cause “hyper alertness, mind racing and agitation which would impact upon the ability of a pharmacist to operate in a professional and responsible manner”.
Her colleagues had noticed that she had shown signs of agitation.
The Tribunal found that this combination of medicines could cause confusion and sedation, and affect cognitive function – which would “seriously impede” a practitioner and expose patients to a serious risk.
She had also created false entries in the names of other in the dispensing system of the pharmacy where she worked to conceal the medication she had dispensed.
She had fully admitted this behaviour in the previous hearing.
She had explained that her behaviour had been influenced by domestic violence against her by her father, against whom she acquired an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order in April 2013.
She also suffered from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, causing lethargy as well as avascular necrosis of the hips which caused her pain and resulted in her having to undergo a double hip replacement.
However the Tribunal had found that “apart from the domestic violence issues and stress, Ms Girgis had no real explanation for her conduct”.
The Tribunal had found that her dispensing of medication to herself and the creation of false entries in the dispensing system for Duromine on 25 occasions constituted conduct which was unacceptable to the profession and which would draw strong criticism by pharmacists in the profession.
At the new hearing, she provided character references including from her parish priest, who said she had been performing voluntary work and that she had turned her life around.
She had used her time out of the profession to refresh her knowledge of ethics and dispensing, the Tribunal noted.
The Tribunal made a reinstatement order and placed conditions on the pharmacist’s employment for 12 months, or for longer should the Pharmacy Council of NSW decide this was appropriate.
One member of the Tribunal disagreed with this majority decision.
The pharmacist must nominate a registered, experienced pharmacist unrelated to her to act as a mentor for at least 12 months.
She must not work as a pharmacist in charge or as the sole pharmacist on duty for 12 months or potentially longer.
“While we are satisfied that the conduct which was the subject of the 2017 decision is unlikely to reoccur, nonetheless given the paramountcy of the health and safety of the public we have decided to take a cautious approach,” the Tribunal noted.