Diversion of drugs a serious offence

November 30, 2016

Lessons Learned

A recent hearing tribunal issued its written decision on the merit and orders regarding the conduct of a pharmacist who was found to have diverted large quantities of Cialis and Viagra. The tribunal found the quantities of drugs the pharmacist diverted were so large as to preclude these were solely for his personal use. Also, the tribunal found the pharmacist abused his position of trust by manipulating the inventory records and ordering procedures to facilitate and conceal his diversions. In doing so the hearing tribunal found that the pharmacist breached the most fundamental elements of trust, integrity and professionalism.

The requirement for registrants of a profession to act honestly and ethically is a fundamental part of the covenant of self-regulation. 

In this matter the tribunal imposed very significant penalties, even though the medications diverted were not narcotics, controlled drugs, or targeted substances. The tribunal ordered: 
a one-year suspension, 
a $5000 fine, 
the costs of the investigation and hearing (likely to be in the range of $15,000-$20,000), 
a condition prohibiting the pharmacist from holding the position of pharmacy owner, proprietor or licensee for a period of five years, and 
a condition that the pharmacist must disclose the tribunal’s written decision to any pharmacy employer for a period of five years. 
 
The tribunal did not instruct the hearings director to provide their decision to the Minister of Justice and Solicitor General of Alberta, as the matter was previously heard by the courts (February 19, 2016) and the pharmacist was ordered to pay a $2,300 penalty. 
 
Rationale for the tribunal’s decision is reflected in its following statements: 
 
From the tribunal’s decision: 
The Hearing Tribunal accepts without hesitation that dispensing Schedule 1 drugs without a prescription attacks the heart of the pharmacy profession and has no difficulty concluding that by engaging in the conduct set out in Allegations 1 and 2 [the pharmacist] has engaged in unprofessional conduct. 
 
The Hearing Tribunal agrees that the conduct at issue is very serious and cuts to the core of professional obligations of a pharmacist. [The pharmacist] demonstrated an alarming lack of judgment in engaging in the conduct he did. The Hearing Tribunal is also concerned with the length of time over which the diversions occurred and the quantity of Viagra and Cialis that were diverted. The Hearing Tribunal has also taken into account the fact that the diversions only ceased when they were discovered by [The pharmacist’s] employer. All these factors point to the need for a serious and severe sanction such as the suspension and fine urged by [the ACP].
 
Pharmacists - review your ethical duties to our profession and yourself 
Review and discuss with colleagues your fundamental professional obligations.
Understand that the diversion of drugs cannot, and will not, be tolerated by the profession. Your decision to participate in these activities may result in the most serious sanctions available. These possible sanctions may apply even when “regular” prescription medications are diverted. 
Do not allow your personal circumstances to negatively affect your professional obligations. 
Review and reflect upon your conduct as it relates to the Code of Ethics and your profession.

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