The practitioner v the Pharmacy Board

A pharmacist has been ordered to pay costs to the Pharmacy Board after fighting against conditions to undergo alcohol screening

A former pharmacy owner has been ordered to pay costs to the Pharmacy Board of Australia after having an application for a stay on conditions imposed on her registration refused.

In April 2017, the Pharmacy Board imposed conditions on the pharmacist’s registration after a consultant psychiatrist identified the practitioner as suffering from alcohol use disorder, which was “likely to detrimentally affect the capacity of the practitioner to practice as a pharmacist”.

These conditions included confining the pharmacist’s practice to perform only managerial and administrative duties in the pharmacy she owned, and to undergo blood testing and treatment from a GP, consultant psychiatrist and neurologist.

The conditions restricted the taking of other-than-prescribed substances and required pharmacists working with the practitioner to have sighted the conditions.

Meanwhile the practitioner stated she had sought treatment at a rehabilitation clinic and hadn’t consumed alcohol since commencing this treatment.

She put in an urgent application for a stay of the condition to undergo blood testing on a fortnightly basis, however this was refused by the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

A further application for review was filed soon afterwards, but in August 2017 her solicitors advised the Board that the pharmacist was withdrawing her application for review.

The Board told the Tribunal that due to the complex nature of the case and extent of material filed, the applicant should be awarded costs where the applications for review were withdrawn.

Meanwhile the pharmacist said she had withdrawn her challenge to the decision – not because of a concession that the Board’s decision was right – but rather because she had recently sold her pharmacy and was unlikely to practice as a pharmacist in the future.

She explained that the basis for her decision to sell the pharmacy included unsatisfactory financial performance as a result of her extended absence, and the medical and legal costs already incurred in the proceedings.

It was submitted that if she had proceeded with the application for review, she may well have attracted criticism for wasting the resources of the Tribunal.

The Tribunal did not accept the conduct of the practitioner in continuing to challenges the Board’s decision was improper, and took into account the unique circumstances which led to withdrawal of the proceedings.

However it found that she did not have a strong basis for any of the arguments made in her application for a stay – having been unsuccessful in each of them – and the attempt to prevent blood testing was “particularly unhelpful to the resolution of the dispute as to the practitioner’s condition”.

The pharmacist was ordered to pay the Board’s costs incidental to the application for a stay.

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