Rego barred after forging colleague’s signature on script

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A former pharmacist and medical practitioner has been barred from applying for registration from his professions for 18 months and two years respectively

A Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal heard that the Medical Board of Australia and Pharmacy Board of Australia reasonably believed the doctor had engaged in conduct which constituted professional misconduct.

The doctor was first registered as a pharmacist in 2010, and then provisionally registered as a medical practitioner in 2015.

In July 2016, the man applied for registration as a medical practitioner, but in March 2018, the Medical Board proposed to refuse this application for general registration, after which the doctor decided to withdraw his application. The provisional registration lapsed in March 2017.

In January 2017, his registration as a pharmacist was cancelled by VCAT by three years. He is not currently registered as a pharmacist or as a medical practitioner.

This conduct in question took place during the period between 1 January 2016 and 21 November 2016.

In August 2016, a former colleague notified AHPRA that the doctor had attempted to obtain Stillnox tablets (28 with two repeats) using the former colleague’s name, prescriber number and a forged signature.

The next day, the man’s direct supervisor, Director Medicine at a health service, also notified AHPRA that she had received a call from the former colleague about the forged script.

The supervisor had contacted three pharmacies in the local area and was provided with around 11 scripts which indicated that the former practitioner could have been obtaining medication dishonestly for a while.

The Medical and Pharmacy Boards decided that this conduct posed a “serious risk to persons” and they accepted undertakings by the man not to practise as either a doctor or a pharmacist.

In November 2016, the doctor pleaded guilty to a number of charges, including three separate charges of obtaining property by deception in 2015 and 2016, and one charge of possessing a drug of dependence.

He admitted to having presented a forged prescription to dishonestly obtain prescription drugs, with the intention of permanently depriving three local pharmacies of Lyrica, Tramadol Hydrochloride, Endone, Tramedol SR, Zolpidem Tartrate, Solone and Temaze.

The possession charge related to Lyrica, Tramadol Hydrochloride, Endone, Tramedol SR, Zolpidem Tartrate, Solone and Temaze.

Another allegation addressed at the time regarded conduct in 2016, when the doctor was affected by prescription medication while working in his capacity as a provisionally registered medical practitioner.

The doctor admitted to being in possession of and using S4 and S8 medicines without the requisite legal authority, and to working under the influence of medications which had not been prescribed to him by a medical practitioner; and said he may have been affected by Tramadol on occasions while at work.

However he also said that Tramadol “would have been in his system” while at work, rather than him being drug impaired at work, and that he did not believe he had ever worked while drug affected in the sense of it affecting his work or care for his patients.

He said he now understands that he was “unwell and in active addition” as well as “fortunate enough not to have caused harm to others”.

He said prescription medicines had been used to suppress “worries, anxiety and despair” about family issues. These included domestic violence by his father against his mother.

The more recent behaviour was a “relapse” of 2012 behaviour while he had been a medical student, which had seen him obtain a prescription pad from his hospital placement and use it to obtain a range of medications.

During the relapse, he said he was taking up to seven tablets of Zolpidem a night, sometimes supplemented with up to three tablets of Temazepam; he also took Tramadol in varying doses.

In November 2016, the former practitioner was found guilty in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria of four criminal offences. The more recent hearing was regarding professional misconduct.

He has since stopped taking medicines apart from paracetamol and random testing continued to be negative, and works as a harm reduction practitioner.

He also hopes to eventually re-register with the Pharmacy Board – though he was in no hurry – on an academic basis and practise as a medical practitioner with an academic interest in clinical pharmacology.

The former practitioner was found to have engaged in professional misconduct and reprimanded. He has been disqualified from applying for registration as a medical practitioner for a period of 18 months, beginning 1 March 2019; he was also disqualified from applying for registration as a pharmacist for two years from that date.

If he applied for registration as a medical practitioner or as a pharmacist, the Pharmacy Board and Medical Board have each been recommended to consider imposing conditions on these registrations.

These would include demonstrating requisite competency prior to beginning practice again, undertaking hair and urine drug screening, and be supervised while practising.

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