Struck-off pharmacist loses reinstatement bid

A pharmacist has had his bid to regain registration knocked back as “premature”

Dr Dale Larden appeared before the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal seeking a reinstatement order.

His registration as a pharmacist had been cancelled following a number of complaints heard by the Pharmacy Tribunal in 2009, which found that he was guilty of professional misconduct over 32 instances of breaches of the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2002, and that he had been convicted of various criminal offences, the circumstances of which rendered him unfit in the public interest to be registered as a pharmacist.

He had also been found to be suffering an impairment, that is, an addiction to oxycodone and methadone.

The Tribunal heard that Dr Larden began taking Panadeine tablets in 1991 following “life pressures” and began to extract codeine from the tablets in 1992. In about 2001, he misappropriated Oxycontin tablets from community pharmacies where he worked, and was dismissed from a full-time position in 2004 after misappropriation of large quantities of Oxycontin, Dexamphetamine, Hypnodorm, Endone and Physeptone, the Tribunal noted.

He sought treatment but discouraged his treating doctor from reporting him to the Pharmacy Board. At this time, he was taking oxycodone daily with dexamphetamine and Rohypnol.

After three months as a prison pharmacist he was “observed, by reason of his drug taking, to be unable to function and his employment ceased,” the Tribunal noted.

After a bad leg fracture in 2005 he obtained prescriptions for pain and changed their dates to obtain large amounts at a time, and on three occasions appeared before a local NSW court for forging prescriptions, entering false entries into drug registers and was convicted of separate offences on each occasion. He then entered a methadone treatment program.

Dr Larden’s registration was cancelled in May 2009. He told a Tribunal that “he did not think at this stage he could be trusted with medications and he had no ambition to return to pharmacy”.

Now, the Tribunal has heard that Dr Larden successfully completed the methadone treatment program, ceasing methadone use in 2012.

He said that after another bad fracture in 2010, he did not request, nor was he prescribed, any opioid-based medication and that he has “turned his life around”.

“Irrespective of the outcome of this process, it is heartening to know that some things which seem irreversible, aren’t necessarily so,” he told the Tribunal.

He told the Tribunal that he felt that legislation around treatment for addiction was a contributor for some of his problems.

“He… said that there were problems with the drug laws, for instance the ostracisation and social stigma associated with attending methadone clinics, that a lot of the laws caused the problems,” the Tribunal noted.

Dr Larden told the Tribunal that while he had not been ready to apply for reinstatement or reregistration in 2012, when he first could have done so, he missed the scientific aspects of the profession and his interest in it had not diminished.

He said he had an interest in retail pharmacy, including locum work, and academia, as well as working in the drug and alcohol area as “until you’ve been in that position it’s hard to empathise”.

An expert who had evaluated Dr Larden told the Tribunal that if Dr Larden were to return to pharmacy, he would need to be subject to certain conditions including those tailored to the role he had in mind, as well as regular contact with a drug and alcohol worker.

The Tribunal accepted that Dr Larden has rebuilt his life.

“His exiting from a life of addiction, solely it seems through his own will-power and without professional assistance (save for his participation in a methadone program) is to his great credit,” it noted.

However, it shared the concerns of the Health Care Complaints Commission that Dr Larden’s application to be reinstated as a pharmacist could be premature.

“We think it tolerably clear that this application is, to use Dr Larden’s words, about closure, namely his closure,” it noted.

The Tribunal did not impose a period of time before Dr Larden can reapply for registration, but it said it would be at least 12 months before it was likely Dr Larden could establish matters which should be addressed, such as demonstrating a commitment to continuing professional development, and undergoing regular drug tests to demonstrate sobriety.

The application was dismissed.

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