The VPA conducted 20 panel hearings in the first three months of this year alone, with 12 of these resulting in a reprimand and eight in a caution
The Victorian Pharmacy Authority conducted 20 panel hearings between 1 January and 31 March this year – leading to 12 reprimands, eight cautions, four re-inspections of pharmacy premises and three cases of conditions being placed on a licence or registration.
This is up from six total panel hearings in the final quarter of 2019, which resulted in just three reprimands and two cautions.
The Authority is able to investigate matters relating to a licence or a registration based on a complaint, or without notification—usually following a premises inspection.
Complaints which fall outside the Authority’s jurisdiction are referred to other agencies.
In the first quarter of 2020, the VPA received 22 complaints, of which two were treated as notifications.
This is also an increase from the final quarter of 2019, when the VPA received 10 complaints, none of which were treated as notifications.
However the number of inspections in Victoria decreased between the two quarters, from 220 last year to 109 this year, according to its latest quarterly performance report.
Of the inspections conducted early this year, over half were cyclical inspections, under a third were inspections of new or altered premises and 16% were change of ownership inspections.
The focus of inspections was on the adequacy of pharmacy reference libraries, timely and accurate recording of S8 poison transactions, regular reconciliation of S8 poisons stocks and records, appropriate S8 storage, routine barcode scanning and proper maintenance of the dispensary area.
For the April – June quarter, the Authority highlighted that it is reviewing its risk-based focus during COVID-19 restrictions and conducting a program of provisional remote inspections.
Details of panel hearings conducted in January and February this year have been shared by the VPA in recent months.
The majority of these involved failures in either timely and accurate recording of S8 poisons transactions; regular reconciliation of S8 poisons stocks and records; or appropriate storage of all S8 poisons.
In one case, keys to the pharmacy’s controlled drugs safe were stored in an unsecured drawer for locums to access during their shifts. The adjacent medical centre also had a set of keys to the pharmacy. The Authority reminded all licensees of the need to restrict the control of pharmacy keys to registered pharmacists.
A second case revealed that pharmacotherapy poisons in the pharmacy were not being stored in a controlled drug safe, but in an unlocked cupboard in the dispensary.
A third case involved a “gross failure” to comply with S8 recording requirements. Of 89 S8 items audited, 34 had inaccurate balances. Transactions involving S8 poisons were not recorded as soon as practicable after completing transactions with 72 entries outstanding. Keys to the S8 safe were not stored securely overnight.
All three licensees in these cases were reprimanded, with some further conditions imposed.