Pharmacists show contempt: regulators

Concerns raised over ‘incompetent’ handling of S8 medicines

Pharmacy regulators around Australia are becoming “dismayed” at the handling of Schedule 8 medicines by the sector, a new release reveals.

In its latest circular, the Victorian Pharmacy Authority says some pharmacists are treating their obligations in safe handling and recording of S8 medicines with “contempt”.

The strong words used by the VPA follow three recent case hearings involving S8 products.

In one case the pharmacy was found to have failed “to ensure that records of all transactions in Schedule 8 poisons showed the true and accurate balance of each Schedule 8 poison remaining in their possession after each transaction”.

It had also failed to keep Schedule 8 safes locked at all times to prevent unauthorised access.

The proprietor was reprimanded and a condition placed on their pharmacy business licence requiring quarterly submission of pharmacy self-audits to the Authority for a period of twelve months.

“Members of pharmacy regulatory bodies around Australia have been dismayed at the casual and sometimes incompetent managing of Schedule 8 poisons by far too many pharmacists,” the VPA said.

“Even though the relevant laws are taught during undergraduate courses, some pharmacists have chosen to treat their obligations in a manner that is little short of contempt.

Far too many cases are brought to attention where the contents of a drug safe and the entries in the register bear little resemblance to one another.”

The VPA says it is “increasingly evident” that pharmacists must continually review the volume of S8 drugs dispensed by the pharmacy, the stock levels maintained and the storage capacity available within compliant S8 poisons safes.

“If storage capacity is not adequate then arrangements must be made to purchase an additional or larger safe”.

Commenting on the warning, PSA National Vice President Michelle Lynch said:

“It’s disappointing, and of serious concern, that some pharmacists are not meeting their legal and professional obligations in the handling of Schedule 8 medicines.

“Given the risks associated with these potent substances, the procurement, storage, supply and recording of this class of medicines are subject to strict legislative controls.

“Professional privileges granted to pharmacists confer a fundamental duty on everyone to be responsible and accountable in managing all therapeutic goods.

“PSA urges every pharmacist to review their procedures and practices to identify and rectify any gaps in standard or performance – and to review their current therapeutic and clinical references to ensure they are the latest editions.”

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  1. sp sharp

    Why, what have the regulators done to help us with our work?

    • Malcolm

      Little. And no mention is made of the fact that most pharmacists’ handling of S8’s is watertight. Again, much criticism, little praise for a job mostly very well done under difficult conditions, and hardly any assistance in the few cases where improvement is required. Pity the doctors are not subject to the same scrutiny regarding S8’s – it would be very interesting. But pharmacists are a far easier target.

      • Ron

        What part of the word “some” don’t you understand?
        Pharmacy regulators have no jurisdiction over doctors.
        A pharmacist on average would possess 100 times more S8s than a doctor, so any failure in this basic professional duty has severe risks and consequences.

    • Ron

      If you can’t manage the relatively simple tasks of keeping correct balances in your drug register and keeping your S8s locked in the safe, without somebody from the government somehow (how?) “helping” you to do it, then I suggest you need to find a less intellectually demanding occupation.

  2. Bella

    No one needs “help” in maintaining an accurate s8 register. It should be near the top of your priority list as a pharmacist and its is a relatively easy task. It’s basically filing, particularly now with electronic registers. It’s hardly on par with the more complex clinical demands of practice. I’d suggest that if a pharmacist can’t be bothered writing up or auditing their DDs regularly they probably can’t be bothered with much else wither considering it’s a such a fundamental legal requirement and takes so little time to ensure compliance.

  3. Phil

    What arrogance from the “REGULATORS”! Is their dismay a reflection on now well they do their job? They are the regulators who are charged with administrating the law. If they have proof, they have the ability to charge the culprits and they impose the penalties. The article’s emphasis is on “some” pharmacists, and in Victoria it says THREE pharmacists. How many pharmacists in Victoria are doing the right thing? Regulators, get on with your job. There will always be a minority who intentionally break the law for personal gain. Your job is to support the pharmacists doing the right thing and protect the public from those breaking the law. Criticising the good pharmacists will not get the support of the profession.

    • Ron

      That’s the point. If a pharmacist continuously keeps erroneous “Balance” figures in his drug register, and leaves S8s out of the safe, there’s no way of knowing for sure if any were stolen, if so by whom they were stolen or even when they were stolen, making prosecution impossible. A minority might be doing this deliberately for personal gain, to conceal their illegal sales or abuse of the S8s, but I suspect the majority of them are just lazy and unprofessional, leaving the door wide open for anyone else to steal the drugs without detection.
      We need to pull our socks up. We pharmacists are given the unique privilege of being allowed to keep and supply huge quantities of addictive drugs, which everyone else is prohibited from doing under pain of massive fines and heavy gaol sentences. Keeping the drugs locked in the safe and keeping an accurate drug register should be our absolute number one priority as pharmacists. If we get that wrong, nothing else matters.

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