12 Jan 2023
A tribunal has cited protection of the public as its primary reason for cancelling the registration of a pharmacist who was found guilty of criminal offences relating to prescription medication and illicit drugs.
The pharmacist, known as VGV for legal reasons, was found guilty of criminal offences dating back to 2016 including the theft and use of prescription pads and possessing regulated medications, as well as driving while suspended and testing positive to the illicit drug MDMA.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal also heard that VGV failed to notify the Pharmacy Board of Australia of the offences within 7 days and, when renewing his registration with the board in November 2019, failed to report his criminal history as required under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law.
The tribunal found that much of VGV’s conduct constituted professional misconduct and that his failure to comply with the disclosure obligations of the National Law constituted unprofessional conduct.
In its reasons published on 22 November 2022, the tribunal emphasised that it did not find that VGV’s opioid addiction and mental health conditions constituted the professional misconduct, noting that over a six-year period, his ‘life descended into a terrible and repeating chaos he had great difficulty escaping’.
The tribunal stated: ‘We decided it was necessary and appropriate to cancel the respondent’s registration so as to protect the public. We agreed with the (Pharmacy) Board’s contention that, even though he currently only holds non-practising registration, the respondent ought not to be allowed to hold himself out as a pharmacist’.
VGV was reprimanded, had his registration cancelled and was disqualified from applying for registration in the pharmacy profession for three years.
The tribunal said the decision was intended to ‘serve as a warning to other members of the profession that, should they fall into addiction and related criminal behaviour and also be experiencing poor mental health, they must seek help and take steps to ensure they can practise safely and act lawfully’.
‘It is a warning that, should they not do so, they risk not only criminal consequences and possible personal shame but also loss of the privilege of practising their profession,’ the tribunal decision stated.
The full tribunal decision is available on the AustLII website.
The standards, codes, policies and guidelines for pharmacists are available on the Pharmacy Board website.