Police found stolen drugs in pharmacist’s home

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A former pharmacist has been reprimanded for misconduct after stealing drugs such as morphine and oxycodone from his employer, and making false entries in controlled drug records

The conduct in question occurred in 2016, when the respondent had taken up a locum position in Queensland as a pharmacist in charge.

A short while after taking up the position, the pharmacist overdosed on oxycodone in an undisclosed location and was found unconscious. He was revived by ambulance paramedics, however the next day his employment was terminated after his employer found him in the pharmacy “not in a fit state to work”.

Police searched the pharmacist’s residence and found a quantity of drugs which were not labelled, and for which he had no prescriptions.

These included a 200 ml bottle of morphine prescribed for a patient who had died, which ought to have been destroyed; 4 broken vials of morphine; 12 tablets of oxycodone; 50 tablets of diazepam; 25 tablets of nitrazepam; and 22 capsules of phentermine. Police also located drug paraphernalia.

Further investigation revealed a number of false entries in the controlled drug register.

The pharmacist was charged with nine offences—five counts of unlawful possession of dangerous drugs, one of failing to properly dispose of a needle and syringe, one of possessing utensils and pipes, one of making a false entry in a record, and one of stealing as a servant.

He pleaded guilty to all offences, and was fined.

In January 2017, the man surrendered his registration and has since remained unregistered.

The Health Ombudsman sought an order from the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal that the former pharmacist be reprimanded.

This was based on three allegations of professional misconduct—unlawful possession of controlled and restricted drugs; stealing controlled drugs from an employer; and self-administration of unprescribed S8 drugs. There was also one allegation of unprofessional conduct—making false entries in controlled drug records.

The former pharmacist did not dispute the allegations, and in a letter to the Tribunal admitted that he was guilty of every charge laid against him.

He attributed his behaviour to social isolation and suggested undetected mental health issues at the time.

Subsequent to the hearing, the man was invited to provide psychiatric evidence. An assessment from a psychiatrist from July 2020 revealed a diagnosis of major depressive disorder, said to be in remission.

The Queensland tribunal decided the conduct of the former pharmacist amounted to professional misconduct and unprofessional conduct, in respect of the allegations. He was reprimanded, with each party to bear their own costs.

While the respondent indicated that he is working in a field other than healthcare, and intends to pursue a different career, there is the possibility he may change his mind, said the tribunal.

“If he did, he would have to satisfy the [Pharmacy] Board of his fitness and suitability to practice, and it would be open to the Board to impose conditions on any future registration,” it said.

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