28 Mar 2019
A New South Wales court has convicted a suspended pharmacist, Mr David Le, of holding out as a registered pharmacist and fined him $24,500.
The charges, filed by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), alleged that Mr Le had held himself out as a registered pharmacist between 8 August 2017 and 15 August 2018 in contravention of the National Law1.
On 7 August 2017, the Pharmacy Council of New South Wales imposed an interim suspension on Mr Le’s registration after it determined that a suspension was appropriate for the protection of the health or safety of the public or was otherwise in the public interest.
AHPRA alleged that despite this suspension, Mr Le continued to open and operate the pharmacy alone without a registered pharmacist on duty.
On 7 March 2019, Mr Le pleaded guilty to holding himself out as a registered pharmacist, when he was not.
On 27 March 2019, Magistrate Still, in the Local Court, convicted Mr Le and imposed an aggregate fine of $24,500. He was ordered to pay legal costs to AHPRA of $15,000.
AHPRA CEO Martin Fletcher said the court outcome demonstrates AHPRA’s work is helping to protect health consumers across Australia.
‘When a pharmacist is suspended by a regulatory body, it is to protect the public. To flout that decision and continue to practise as a registered pharmacist when suspended, amounts to a serious risk to the safety and health of the public,’ Mr Fletcher said.
‘We remind the public to check the national online register of practitioners to make sure they are visiting a registered health practitioner. If you have a concern, let us know.'
Pharmacy Board of Australia (Board) Chair Mr Brett Simmonds said the convictions send a strong message to anyone who fails to implement the decisions of the regulators by practising as a pharmacist while suspended.
‘AHPRA, the Council and the Board work together to protect the public by acting against anyone who claims to be a registered pharmacist when they are not. Suspended pharmacists that flout the law will be held to account,’ he said.
Council President Stuart Ludington added: ‘The outcome in this case is a reminder to pharmacists of the importance of ethical conduct and the need to comply with any imposed practice restrictions. At all times we must display integrity, trustworthiness and a standard of behaviour that warrants the trust and respect of the community. Holding out as a pharmacist goes against all these expected principles.’
The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2019 (Qld) has been passed by the Queensland Parliament. The amendments include an increase in penalties and the introduction of custodial sentences for some offences under the National Law, including where a person holds themselves out to be a registered health practitioner when they are not.
Anyone with concerns about whether an individual holds registration with a national health profession board can check the Register of practitioners maintained by AHPRA online (www.ahpra.gov.au) or contact AHPRA on 1300 419 495.
1The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory (the National Law).