Cork vet-pharmacist censured for selling animal medicines without prescriptions

Pharmacy owner tells inquiry that ‘blurred’ lines between his practices was ‘madness’

Bandon-based Dan McCarthy, who works as a vet and owns four pharmacies in  Co Cork, has been censured by the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland for  selling veterinary medicines without valid prescriptions.

Bandon-based Dan McCarthy, who works as a vet and owns four pharmacies in Co Cork, has been censured by the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland for selling veterinary medicines without valid prescriptions.

 

A dual-qualified pharmacist and vet has been censured for dispensing animal medicines without prescriptions through his Co Cork pharmacies and has undertaken not to repeat the breaches.

Bandon-based Dan McCarthy, who works as a vet and owns four pharmacies in Co Cork, admitted to the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland there were “blurred lines definitely” between his two practices from 2009 to 2011 when one of its officers discovered he was selling veterinary medicines without valid prescriptions.

Testifying before a disciplinary inquiry at the pharmacy regulator in Dublin, Mr McCarthy (42) said he accepted “100 per cent” proper processes were not in place in his practices at the time.

“There was blurred lines and hands up there, there was a link between the two,” he said.

The Cork man gave an undertaking under the Pharmacy Act 2007 not to dispense veterinary medicines again through his pharmacies without the required paperwork. He also consented to being censured by the professional body.

John Campion, chairman of the society’s professional conduct committee, said in the ruling there were matters “of considerable concern” around the protection of the public and the professional reputation of pharmacists.

The committee took into account the fact the offences took place in 2010 and 2011 and the systems that had been place that led to compliance failures were “brought to an end shortly afterwards”.

Mr McCarthy attributed the lax systems within his pharmacies as “madness” saying that he was “very busy” in his pharmacy and veterinary businesses, and that there was “awful lot of paperwork” that had to be filled out.

“I will never dispense again through the pharmacies the veterinary medicines. It was just madness what we did, the way it was set up,” he told the inquiry.

The Cork businessman, a qualified vet since 1999 and a qualified pharmacist since 2009, employs eight pharmacists and 30 staff at pharmacies in locations that include Blackpool and Riverstick.

Liz Kielty, an authorised officer with the society, told the inquiry she and another officer made an unannounced visit to Mr McCarthy’s Classes Lake Pharmacy in Ovens, Co Cork on September 22nd, 2010.

Two months previously, the society had received records relating to 400 supplies of veterinary-only medicines from the pharmacy. The records showed no prescriptions for seven of the supplies and while there was paperwork for the remainder, they were missing key details required to be on prescriptions.

On her 2010 visit, while waiting in a separate area of the pharmacy that had its own counter and till system, Ms Kielty witnessed a female customer buying a flea prevention medicine for her cats, Brownie and Rosie, for €29.

She said that she did not see any prescription change hands or any phone call being made to a vet.

Her subsequent investigation found that there were two systems in place. For small animals such as cats and dogs, Mr McCarthy’s pharmacy employees were told to supply animal medicines without a prescription.

In the case of large animals such as cattle, staff would telephone Mr McCarthy for “verbal authorisation” and then sell the medicines to the farmers with Mr McCarthy generating a prescription “at some later date”.

On a second unannounced visit, in February 2011, Mr McCarthy could not provide prescriptions for animal medicines supplied by the pharmacy between October and December 2010.

He said that he could not make them available as they were “with his accountant.”

On a March 2011 visit, notified to Mr McCarthy, Ms Kielty found that of 1,299 animal medicines supplied, 54 did not have any prescription to support them and in 1,131 cases the prescription was not properly marked.

She also discovered some of the prescriptions for animal medicines sold between October and December 2010 were retrospectively filled out.

The inquiry also heard from Ms Kielty that Mr McCarthy had directed that animal medicines were dispensed to a dairy farmer whose cattle were not under his care as a veterinarian.

Mr McCarthy and his business have been the subject of other disciplinary actions over the breaches.

He was fined €14,000 in Cork District Court in 2012 after pleading guilty to 14 offenses under the Pharmacy Act 2007. The fine was reduced to €2,500 in an appeal to Cork Circuit Court in 2017.

He is also due to appear before an inquiry of the Veterinary Council of Ireland.