Reprimand after drug trafficking, falsifying records and burglary

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A pharmacist has been disqualified from applying for registration as a health practitioner for three years, after trafficking methylamphetamine and diazepam

The Victorian pharmacist was also reprimanded, after he falsified S8 records and failed to store S8s correctly, pleaded guilty to burglary and theft charges and driving while unregistered, and to charges of possessing a prohibited weapon.

A Tribunal hearing which took place via telephone conference heard that the pharmacist had admitted engaging in professional misconduct.

Between November 2014 and February 2015, he was alleged to have committed 10 indictable offences, which were outlined in the hearing.

The pharmacist’s registration lapsed in 2016; he had been registered from 2007 and practised until early 2015.

In 2013, he had acquired part ownership of a pharmacy in a small Victorian town, in a small strip shopping area; in 2014, he acquired part ownership of a pharmacy in a busy street closer to the centre of town.

Between November 2013 and January 2016, on 14 separate occasions, the pharmacist created false records about the destruction of S8 poisons, falsely recording that other pharmacists had witnessed him destroying the medicines.

Between June 2014 and February 2015, on 14 separate occasions, he appropriated S8 poisons from the two pharmacies.

He did this by dispensing drugs to customers at the more central pharmacy who presented with a script for S8s, and then deleting notes that the S8 had been dispensed; he also failed to record that the balance of S8s in the central pharmacy had been reduced.

He then would fax the customer’s original script to the further-out pharmacy, requesting that the S8 drug be dispensed, as if for the first time.

He would receive the S8 dispensed by the strip centre pharmacy and remove the label saying to whom it had been prescribed, and then fail to record that the S8 had been received, thereby coming into possession of the same quantity of S8 poisons as was originally dispensed to the customer.

In December 2014, the pharmacist talked with a staff member at the outer pharmacy and asked her to dispense Oxycodone Sandoz to a customer.

However she refused, because she was aware that this S8 could be abused.

Despite this, the pharmacist dispensed the medicine and in January 2015, falsely recorded that he had dispensed OxyContin, rather than Oxycodone Sandoz.

In February 2014, police searched the more central pharmacy and located a number of S8 poisons which were not secured in the required lockable and secure storage facility.

They found an almost-full one-litre container of Biodone Forte (containing methadone), nine two-milligram films of Suboxone (containing Buprenorphine) and 18 eight-milligram films of Suboxon unsecured on a bench top/sink; two boxes of Suboxone two-milligram films in an unlocked cupboard beneath the sink; and 140 Physeptone (containing methadone) tablets on a shelf in the dispensary.

There was a steel storage cabinet at the central pharmacy, but it was “completely filled” with other items, the Tribunal noted, allowing no room for the S8s.

The Tribunal also heard about the pharmacist’s other offending, including an incident when a person was observed to drive away from the pharmacist’s home.

Police arrested this man and found methylamphetamine which had been supplied to him by the pharmacist.

Between 19 September 2014 and February 2015, the pharmacist had exchanged text messages with this man, and offered to supply him with diazepam in exchange for methylamphetamine.

The other man agreed to this and the duo met at the pharmacist’s home, where the pharmacist supplied him with diazepam.

On two more occasions, the pharmacist supplied the other man with methylamphetamine.

In February 2015 police searched the pharmacist’s home and found two snap-lock bags containing methylamphetamine; a small orange container containing remnants of cocaine; a bowl containing cannabis; and various S4 poisons.

Victoria Police had alerted Ahpra about the pharmacist in December 2014, and that month the Pharmacy Board decided to investigate his conduct, keeping notice of this from him on the basis that revealing the investigation could prejudice the criminal investigation being carried out by police.

In February 2015 Victoria Police notified the Board that it had charged the pharmacist with a range of serious drug offences, prompting the Board to take immediate action on his registration.

The pharmacist undertook not to practise as a pharmacist until it had approved him to do so, and not to enter the premises of any pharmacy or pharmacy department unless in the presence of another registered pharmacist.

In April 2018 the pharmacist had pleaded guilty to possessing cannabis and methylamphetamine, and was found guilty without conviction; he also pleaded guilty that day to driving while his authorisation was suspended on two occasions and committing an indictable offence while on bail.

In October 2018 he had also pleaded guilty to burglary and theft offences committed in April 2018 plus committing an indictable offence while on bail.

Also in October 2018 he pleaded guilty to charges around handling, receiving and/or retaining stolen goods, and dealing with property suspected of being the proceeds of crime, in May 2017.

In November 2018, the pharmacist pleaded guilty to, and was convicted of, 12 charges in the County Court of Victoria.

On the same day he also pleaded guilty to more charges, namely possessing a prohibited weapon – in this case, nunchaku – and was found guilty.

The Tribunal decided that a period of disqualification from practising as a pharmacist was appropriate, as was a reprimand.

It said that its purpose was not to punish, but essentially to protect the public “as well as meeting the needs of specific deterrence, general deterrence, and protection of the reputation of the profession”.

The pharmacist was disqualified from applying for registration for three years.

If he wishes to seek re-registration, he will need to satisfy the Board that this is appropriate.

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