A pharmacist who was addicted to opiates used photocopies of prescriptions to obtain drugs “greatly in excess” of what is permitted for himself, the High Court has heard.
The man, who cannot be named due to his medical condition, had his registration as a pharmacist cancelled by the president of the High Court, Mr Justice David Barniville. This followed an application to the judge to confirm a decision made by the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI) last December.
A PSI inquiry committee found the man guilty of professional misconduct and impairment in his role as a pharmacist.
The court heard he used photocopies of prescriptions from a GP to obtain quantities of opiates, painkillers and sleeping tablets “greatly in excess” of what is permitted over a 12-month period. He had been a pharmacist for 30 years by then.
The events took place in 2015 and 2016 and an investigator was appointed following a complaint to the HSE from another pharmacist. His registration was involuntarily cancelled in 2017 when he failed to pay his annual fee to the PSI.
He told the investigator he did not remember using photocopies of prescriptions but set out his mental health difficulties and drug misuse issues, Eoghan O’Sullivan BL, for the PSI, said.
An inquiry followed at which the man made admissions. Two findings of misconduct were made against him in relation to use of the photocopies and impairment of his role due to matters including multiple drug use and mainly opiate dependency, counsel said.
The inquiry committee found his actions were premeditated, dishonest and involved a breach of trust because he used his skill and knowledge as a pharmacist to dupe and mislead both his GP and other pharmacists to whom he had produced the scripts, counsel said.
The investigator who prepared a report for the inquiry said, while he was no longer actively working as a pharmacist, if the man was to return to work there would have to be a very strict regime in place because of concerns that he would be working with controlled medications.
Mr O’Sullivan said the man was not registered when the complaint was made against him, but there was a provision in law for cancellation where someone was no longer registered.
Mr Justice Barniville said the circumstances of the case were tragic as the man was someone who suffered from significant medical and mental health issues. He said the professional conduct committee had noted that the paramount objective of any sanction was the protection of the public.
The committee also took account of the fact that the man had admitted the allegations, had not previously been sanctioned and had made impressive progress with his problems. It also took into account that the conduct involved significant dishonesty and misuse of drugs.
The judge said the PSI council decided the only realistic and appropriate sanction was cancellation of his registration. He was satisfied there was no reason to interfere with that view and he confirmed the cancellation.