Reprimand over cocaine conduct

Cocaine. Image courtesy US Drug

A former pharmacist and aspiring doctor has been reprimanded after he had very pure pharmaceutical cocaine sent to his employer’s pharmacy

The pharmacist used his employment to dishonestly obtain cocaine for his own use, altering the pharmacy’s records to avoid detection, Judge John Allen noted.

He did so on six occasions, obtaining seven 5mg doses of extremely pure cocaine by ordering it to his employer’s pharmacy, without authority or a script.

“The pharmaceutical cocaine the respondent obtained was significantly more potent than street grade cocaine, being almost 90% pure,” the judge noted.

This took place in the first half of 2015, but by mid-2015, the pharmacist decided to seek treatment for his drug addiction and mental health problems, and quit his job at the pharmacy. He then accessed treatment from a clinical psychologist.

He appeared before Brisbane’s Supreme Court in February 2017, and pleaded guilty to one offence of fraud, and six of possessing dangerous drugs.

He was placed on probation for three years, and ordered to perform 240 hours’ community service, as well as pay compensation to his former employer for the cost of the cocaine.

At the time, the sentencing judge noted that the former pharmacist had been experiencing “particularly challenging” personal circumstances at the time of the offending, that his decision-making capacity would have been impaired and that he was using the cocaine to “self-medicate and lift his mood”.

The Health Ombudsman then referred disciplinary proceedings to QCAT.

The man has not been registered as a pharmacist since 2015, but has since completed a medical degree, and been granted provisional registration as a medical practitioner, subject to conditions.

In November 2017, he submitted an application for a provisional registration as a medical practitioner, in which he disclosed the conduct as a pharmacist.

In February 2018, AHPRA granted him provisional registration as a medical practitioner to undertake an internship as a medical practitioner.

To date he has not yet begun an internship, and has had an internship offer withdrawn due to the disciplinary proceedings referred by the Health Ombudsman.

The former pharmacist said he hoped that once these proceedings were finalised, he could find an internship in a hospital, subject to the conditions AHPRA imposed.

Judge Allen noted that the former pharmacist’s efforts towards rehabilitation had been successful, and that he had returned clean results under a strict regime of drug testing.

There was no evidence of any current impairment, he noted, and the evidence showed the former pharmacist is fit to practice.

“Any suspension of practice would impact upon the respondent’s ability to obtain employment as a medical practitioner and would be unnecessary for the protection of the public and unduly punitive,” he said.

The Tribunal decided that the former pharmacist had behaved in a way that constituted professional misconduct, and reprimanded him. No order was made as to costs.

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