High Court reporters
A pharmacist who was addicted to opiates used photocopies of prescriptions to obtain drugs for himself "greatly in excess" of what is permitted, the High Court had 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.
It followed an application to the judge to confirm a decision of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI) last December.
A PSI inquiry committee had found him guilty of professional misconduct and impairment in his role as a pharmacist.
The court heard he had 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. At that stage, he had been a pharmacist for 30 years.
The events took place in 2015 and 2016, and an investigator was appointed following a complaint to the HSE from another pharmacist in the area where he worked.
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 he made admissions. Two findings of misconduct were made against him in relation to use of the photocopies and in relation to impairment of his role due to matters including multiple drug use and mainly opiate dependency, counsel said.
Breach of trust
The inquiry committee found that what he had done was 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 he was to return to work there would have to be a very strict regime in place due to concerns about the fact he would be working with controlled medications.
Mr O'Sullivan said that while he was not registered at the time the complaint was made against him, there is provision in law for cancellation where someone is no longer registered.
Mr Justice Barniville said the circumstances of the case were tragic as he was someone who suffers 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 he had admitted the allegations, had not previously been sanctioned and that he 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.