The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (Tribunal) has found a pharmacist guilty of professional misconduct resulting in him being disqualified from being registered as a pharmacist for a period of 3 years.

The finding came after the pharmacist admitted to misappropriating and consuming large quantities of Endone, Duromine and Alprazolam over a period of approximately 12 months.

Background Facts

Mr Farhat became a registered pharmacist in 2013 and from that year worked as the pharmacist in charge at two pharmacies owned by the same proprietor. In March 2015 Mr Farhat ceased employment at the pharmacies and the proprietor notified the Pharmaceutical Services Unit (PSU) of missing Schedule 8 drugs and a missing drug register. An investigation was undertaken by PSU which identified large quantities of missing drugs between May 2014 and April 2015 and erroneous entries in the existing Drug Register.

A meeting was held in May 2015 between Mr Farhat, his legal representative and the PSU where Mr Farhat admitted to misappropriating and consuming large quantities of Endone, Duromine and Alprazolam from the pharmacies and to making false entries in the drug register to conceal this.

Mr Farhat attended his GP in June 2015 and was referred to a psychiatrist specialising in addiction medicine whom he had one consultation with in August 2015. Mr Farhat was also assessed by an appointed psychiatrist in June and August 2015. Mr Farhat did not engage in any further medical treatment for detoxification, addiction or assistance in addressing the underlying issues that led to his drug use.

Issues

The matter comprised six complaints of unsatisfactory professional conduct involving Schedule 8 and 4D drugs and one complaint that the initial six complaints individually and cumulatively amount to professional misconduct. Prior to the hearing Mr Farhat's legal representatives wrote to the HCCC and conceded all complaints.

The issues facing the Tribunal were:

  1. Whether the admitted conduct amounted to professional misconduct; and
  2. Appropriate protective orders.

Mr Farhat attended the hearing and he did not contest that the admitted conduct amounted to professional misconduct and that a deregistration order was appropriate. Mr Farhat declined to give any evidence at the hearing.

The Tribunal was faced with the task of making a determination concerning protective orders in the absence of current evidence as to the practitioner's attitude to the complaints, to drug misappropriation, drug misuse, and to his professional responsibilities.

Findings

Despite the conduct apparently being in the context of an escalating addiction, the Tribunal noted it involved a breach of trust and a calculated course of conduct to avoid detection, occurred for 12 months and did not cease until access to the supply was terminated. It was further noted that Mr Farhat did not seek professional assistance to overcome his addiction. The Tribunal found that the conduct cumulatively amounted to professional misconduct by reason of its repetition and inherent seriousness.

The Tribunal concluded that considering the conduct as a whole, the gravity of the misconduct meant that deregistration was the only appropriate order. The Tribunal accepted the submission of the HCCC that a considerable period would be required for the practitioner to demonstrate insight and remediation in order to fulfil the onus of proving fitness to practise in a reregistration application.

Orders

  1. Pursuant to findings of unsatisfactory professional conduct and misconduct, under s149C(4)(a) of the National Law if the practitioner was still registered as a pharmacist the Tribunal would have cancelled his registration;
  2. Pursuant to s149C(4)(b) of the National Law the practitioner is disqualified from being registered as a pharmacist for a period of 3 years from the date of this decision;
  3. Pursuant to s149C(4)(c) of the National Law, the Tribunal requires the Pharmacy Board to record the fact that had he been registered the Tribunal would have cancelled Mr Farhat’s registration for a period of 3 years from the date of this decision;
  4. The Respondent to pay the Applicant’s costs of these proceedings pursuant to cl 13(1) of Sch 5D of the National Law as agreed or as assessed under the Legal Profession Uniform Law Application Act 2014 (NSW); and
  5. A non-publication order under s 64 of the Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2013 (NSW) prohibiting disclosure or publication of the names of the patients listed in the schedule to the complaint.  Read More