A pharmacist has had conditions attached to his registration after being found guilty of poor professional performance over supplying 200 capsules of a controlled drug to a patient who died by suicide some three days later.
There is no suggestion the pharmacist’s actions caused the young man’s death, High Court president Ms Justice Mary Irvine was told. A postmortem found, in addition to Seconal Sodium, the barbiturate supplied by the pharmacist, there were two other drugs in the man’s system.
The judge said this was a case of “high emotion and sadness” and, having taken all factors into account, including the adverse impact of the events on the pharmacist himself, she had no hesitation approving the conditions.
Those require the pharmacist to arrange for three audits of his practice over an 18-month period to ensure it complies with the applicable professional standards for dispensing controlled drugs and drugs unlicensed for supply here.
The patient’s father made a complaint in March 2018 to the Pharmaceutical Council of Ireland (PCI) about the supply of medications to his son by the pharmacist, who was the supervising and superintendent pharmacist at the pharmacy in question.
The PCI’s Professional Conduct Committee later held an inquiry in private into a number of allegations. It was alleged the pharmacist, on dates between January 1st and February 27th, 2018, failed to take any, or any adequate steps, on foot of prescriptions presented by the patient for supply of Seconal Sodium, a schedule 2 controlled drug unlicensed for supply in Ireland, to confirm the drug was legitimately prescribed by a registered medical practitioner and was clinically and therapeutically appropriate.
It was also alleged the pharmacist had, about February 27th, 2018, supplied 200 Seconal Sodium 50mg capsules to the patent on foot of a prescription which was forged/fraudulent without taking any, or any adequate steps, to confirm the medication had been legitimately prescribed and the dosage was appropriate for the patient.
The committee found both allegations were proven beyond reasonable doubt and, when viewed together, amounted to poor professional performance.
In considering sanction, it took into account mitigating factors, including admissions of poor professional performance by the pharmacist, his regret over his performance, the adverse impact on him resulting from the patient’s death, and his participation in a course to ensure his practice complied with the applicable professional standards.
The committee recommended to the council the pharmacist should be censured with conditions attached to his registration, including he would engage a suitably qualified pharmacist to carry out three audits at six monthly intervals to ensure his practice conformed to the applicable professional standards concerning the dispensing of controlled drugs.
Zoe Richardson, of Field Fisher solicitors, for the PCI, applied to Ms Justice Irvine on Monday to confirm the conditions. Counsel for the pharmacist said he had made admissions and has been adversely impacted by the matter.
In her ruling, the judge said the facts concerned a very tragic outcome of the death of a patient who had some of the drug in his body when a post mortem was carried out
She acknowledged the “immense pain” the patient’s family must be feeling, which his father had expressed in writing. She noted the father had opposed the matter being heard in private because he considered the tragedy which befell his son might be a learning experience for others to prevent similar tragedies in the future. The judge said she was also mindful of the adverse impact of this matter on the pharmacist.
She agreed the allegations against the pharmacist were serious and also took into account his admissions, his insight, the regret he had expressed about his performance and his engagement with the applicable internal processes to prevent a recurrence.
Having taken the various factors into account, she was satisfied the proposed conditions were not overly onerous or disproportionate and would help ensure his practice is brought into line with what is required of a professional pharmacist and maintain public confidence and trust in the profession.