Pharmacist suspension upheld over ‘prescription only’ dispensing

Colin Lannon dispensed cystic fibrosis medication for two children without prescription

The High Court has upheld a two-month suspension order against a pharmacist who dispensed "prescription-only" cystic fibrosis medication for two children in the absence of any valid prescription.

Colin Lannon, who has been the supervising pharmacist in Lannon's Late Night Pharmacy in Sligo since 2014, had asked the court to cancel the two-month suspension imposed on him by the council of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland following a finding of poor professional performance against him by a Professional Practices Committee (PPC) in February 2021.

He had become the subject of a complaint to the Pharmaceutical Society by the head of pharmacy function with the HSE over the dispensing of Kalydeco, a high tech drug used as a treatment for cystic fibrosis which can only be prescribed by a designated specialist registered medical practitioner.

The medication was dispensed to two children in one family, both suffering from cystic fibrosis, who had been approved by their treating consultant for “lifelong treatment” with Kalydeco.

Guilty

Their prescriptions for Kalydeco were renewed over time with the last prescription being valid up to July 2017.

However, notwithstanding the absence of valid prescriptions, the pharmacy continued to dispense Kalydeco to them for eight months between August 2017 and February 2018.

Mr Lannon personally dispensed this medication on only the first occasion though at all times, as supervising pharmacist, he was responsible for the operation of the pharmacy.

At the PPC inquiry into the complaint, Mr Lannon was represented by a solicitor but he himself did not give any evidence because he was unwell due to side effects of the Covid-19 vaccine injection he had received.

The PPC found him guilty and recommended the suspension of his registration for two months and that conditions be attached to his registration.

The conditions included that he should not act as a supervising pharmacist, superintendent pharmacist or a sole practitioner for a period of nine months and be prohibited from practising other than under the supervision of a senior and experienced registered pharmacist for nine months or for such further time as is recommended by the appointed pharmacist.

The council of the Pharmaceutical Society backed the PPC recommendations.

In his appeal to the High Court, Mr Lannon said that on reflection, he should have approached the PPC inquiry differently.

He said he had taken an overly benign view of his actions and had not fully appreciated his responsibilities as a supervising pharmacist.

He accepted that lines of cross-examination in the PPC inquiry were pursued on his behalf which may have been taken as suggesting an attempt to minimise his conduct or shift blame to others.

He regretted not giving evidence before the PPC because he felt unwell and it would have been wiser to seek an adjournment to give him an opportunity to demonstrate his contrition and genuine remorse.

He accepted it was reasonable for the PPC to have taken the view that he had lacked insight but maintained that he demonstrated insight and that appropriate weight was not given to this by the council.

‘Considerable sympathy’

He also said any period of suspension will have a serious impact upon him reputationally and financially.

He did not appeal the finding of poor professional performance but he appealed the two-month suspension. Since September last, he had stepped down as supervising pharmacist and worked now as a support pharmacist.

The Pharmaceutical Society opposed the appeal.

Ms Justice Emily Egan said that, while being fully conscious of the obligation to assist Mr Lannon with as much leniency as possible, the court must conclude that the sanction imposed was reasonable. The council, in affirming the PPC recommendations, had carried out a correct calibration of the conduct, the purpose of sanction, and the mitigating factors.

Although she had “considerable sympathy” for Mr Lannon, who had demonstrated remorse, and more importantly insight, which will from now on be reflected in all aspects of his practice, the court was not prepared to cancel the sanction imposed.