Under fire

Pharmacist proprietor alleges bullying after complaints of inappropriate compounding and contravening pecuniary interest laws

The former proprietor of a large compounding pharmacy, which dispensed prescriptions to patients throughout Australia, will face a tribunal after his argument that complaints against him were vexatious or lacking in substance was rejected.

Now a former pharmacist – having surrendered his registration in November 2020 – the NSW man is facing 17 complaints made against him by the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC).

The man’s compounding pharmacy was established in 2003, however he told the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal it was deregistered in July 2020, following allegations of inappropriate compounding and dispensing of ketamine, hormones, peptides and phentermine.

The HCCC alleged that on the basis of the complaints taken together, the former pharmacist is guilty of professional misconduct.

An additional complaint alleges that under a business arrangement in place from 2002 to 2006, a non-pharmacist referred prescriptions for compounded pharmaceutical products to the former proprietor, or a pharmacist nominated by him.

Profits generated from dispensing those products were allegedly paid to companies owned and controlled by the non-pharmacist.

The Commission alleges that as a consequence of that arrangement, the former proprietor contravened Section 25 of the now repealed Pharmacy Act 1964 (NSW), which prohibited non-pharmacists from having “a pecuniary interest, direct or indirect, in the business of a pharmacist carried on in a pharmacy.”

In doing so, the HCCC Commission alleges that the former pharmacist is guilty of professional misconduct.

The former pharmacist submitted that it is not in the public interest for the inquiry into the Complaint to be conducted as he is no longer a practising pharmacist and has given an undertaking not to apply to practise again in Australia.

He also contended that the HCCC complaints were “vexatious”, and that the Pharmaceutical Regulatory Unit (PRU) and its appointees on the Pharmacy Council of NSW have subjected him to a “targeted vendetta”, in circumstances where his only “crime” was to be the first and largest compounder of “modern complex compounded medicines” in Australia.

As part of this vendetta, he contended the Council and the Commission have subjected his former staff to “uncalled-for treatment, public humiliation bullying and career-destroying actions”.

He added that the business arrangement between himself and the non-pharmacist was reviewed by the Council and the PRU and he was found not to have contravened the Pharmacy Act.

However the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal found that the subject of the complaint was of a “serious nature” and that the complaint could not be characterised as lacking in substance.

The Tribunal also found that, based on the available material, evidence did not support a finding that the HCCC Director of Proceedings was motivated by some improper purpose in deciding to prosecute the complaint and the complaint could not be characterised as being vexatious.

The Tribunal dismissed the former pharmacist’s application for the tribunal to exercise its power to dismiss the complaint and ruled that an inquiry will go ahead.

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