Professional misconduct through ‘laziness or poor attitude’

A pharmacist has been reprimanded after she dispensed S4 restricted drugs to herself, family and a friend without scripts

The pharmacist faced the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal where she was found to have behaved in a way that constituted professional misconduct.

Between December 2014 and May 2017, the pharmacist worked at a Sunshine Coast store – and her employment was then terminated.

Eight times during this period, she dispensed S4 restricted drugs to herself without a script – including antidepressants, antibiotics and acne cream.

On six occasions, she provided S4 restricted drugs including nausea medicine and Seretide inhalers to a close relative, again without a script.

On four occasions, she provided S4 restricted drugs to a friend, identified only as Person C in the Tribunal’s transcript, again without a prescription – incuding Imovane and Circadin.

During this period she made false entries in the pharmacy’s electronic record of the S4 restricted drugs dispensed at the pharmacy 18 times.

Finally, in April 2017, she took a box of Circadin containing 30 tablets from the pharmacy, without paying for it.

The pharmacist admitted that she engaged in the conduct in question, and there were no factual issues in dispute. Both she and the Health Ombudsman, the applicant in the case, agreed that this constituted professional misconduct.

“The requirement that a pharmacist ensure there is a valid prescription is a central obligation peculiar to the profession of pharmacy,” the Tribunal noted.

“She has deliberately and repeatedly disregarded one of the central obligations of her profession and her conduct is serious. Pharmacists should not provide Schedule 4 restricted drugs at their own discretion…

“Although the majority of drugs in question were not addictive or prone to abuse,6providing medication without a prescription strikes at the heart of the central obligation of pharmacists.”

The Tribunal also highlighted the severity of creating false records, as record-keeping requirements are not “mere business records”.

“The respondent’s conduct was deliberate and took place over a period of approximately 20 months,” it said.

“Through laziness or poor attitude, the respondent deliberately disregarded one of the core responsibilities of pharmacists in favour of convenience.”

The pharmacist had expressed that she was “deeply ashamed” of the conduct and had been working on addressing the stressors in her personal life which may have impacted on her judgement at the time of the conduct. She had also developed an education plan and a regular mentoring agreement with an experienced pharmacist.

Both the pharmacist and the Ombudsman agreed that she had engaged in professional misconduct, and conditions were imposed on her registration to practise pharmacy.

These included that she must undergo a period of mentoring for at least two hours a month for 12 months, focusing on ethical dispensing and decision-making; must complete relevant courses on appropriate dispensing and decision-making within 12 months; and is to be responsible for paying all related costs.

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