Under pressure

A Queensland pharmacist has been reprimanded after stealing Ritalin from his workplace, which he said he did to cope with work and life pressures

A pharmacist engaged in professional misconduct by stealing Ritalin tablets from his workplace for personal use, a tribunal has found.

The pharmacist was working on a casual basis at a Brisbane pharmacy when on 20 November 2016 he dispensed a prescription for 100 Ritalin 10mg tablets for a 10-year-old child.

However neither the child nor his parent or guardian had requested that medication be dispensed.

The Ritalin was taken from the controlled drug safe and entered into the controlled drug register, and the medication dispensed and placed in the pharmacy dispensary.

That evening, the pharmacist took the medication home for personal use and consumed 10 of the 100 tablets over the following three days – using two tablets on five occasions.

Over the following days, the pharmacist’s employer became aware of the dispensing discrepancy and, on 28 November 2016, he met with his employer and admitted his misconduct.

The pharmacist said he had dispensed the medication to the child’s father for use by his child, noticing that the prescription would expire at the end of November 2016.

He stated that he was trying to stay ahead of his work by processing the prescription but recalled that an acquaintance had mentioned he sometimes wished he could take a Ritalin to get everything done.

At this time, the respondent had also been employed as a professional services pharmacist with the Pharmacy Guild of Australia.

He told his pharmacy employer that he had been getting up at 3.30am to complete work associated with that employment and that he took the Ritalin to cope with the pressures of work and life.

He later made further admissions that he had taken the Ritalin to stay awake and concentrate on work that he needed to complete for his office job.

The pharmacist was dismissed from his role with the pharmacy.

On 29 November 2016, he returned the 90 unused Ritalin tablets to the pharmacy together with his keys to the pharmacy.

Following the misconduct, the pharmacist continued to be employed in his non-clinical role with the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, and subsequently in a non-clinical role with the Australian Digital Health Agency, in compliance with conditions of approval of practice by the Pharmacy Board.

The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal found the pharmacist had behaved in a way that constitutes professional misconduct.

“The unauthorised dispensation of schedule 8 drugs and personal use of such drugs is a breach of a central tenet of the pharmacy profession,” the tribunal found.

“It constitutes a serious breach of trust of the public and the respondent’s employer.”

However the tribunal noted that the pharmacist had expressed remorse and regret for his conduct and showed insight into his actions.

He had complied with conditions imposed by the Pharmacy Board on his registration, and also successfully completed six-months of mentoring.

The tribunal accepted the pharmacist had “engaged in conduct that was a one-off occurrence and there is no indication that he suffered or suffers from any drug abuse disorder”.

The pharmacist was reprimanded.

Readers who need someone to talk to can contact the Pharmacists’ Support Service on 1300 244 910.

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