ACT News

Canberra doctor prescribed unsafe amounts of opioids doses to drug users

A Canberra doctor prescribed unsafe amounts of opioids to drug users who were "abusing the system" to feed their addictions, a tribunal has found.

And the medical company she worked for, Primary Health Care, has been slammed by the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal for poor supervision, mentoring, and training of doctors at its two bulk-billing practices in Ginninderra and Phillip.

The tribunal on Friday allowed Syeda Tausif to resume practising under strict supervision and restrictions, after her medical registration was suspended last year.

Investigations of Dr Tausif's misconduct revealed she prescribed opioids to patients without proper approval for a period between 2011 and 2012.

At the time, she had been churning through 40 to 50 consultations a day, was being paid a substantial retainer per patient, and was given little to no clinical mentoring at Primary Health Care. The only training she received before she started seeing patients was on how to use the company's billing software.

The tribunal found the lack of supervision and mentorship "severely exacerbated" Dr Tausif's professional problems.


Her opioid prescriptions were being made at unsafe doses and frequencies, and to patients that Dr Tausif should have known were dependent on drugs. 

The Medical Board of Australia decided to take immediate action in September 2012, a month after the allegations first came to light.

It moved to "protect public health and safety" by restricting Dr Tausif from prescribing a broad range of medications, including controlled medicines.

But in February last year, the board became aware that Dr Tausif may have been breaching their restrictions.

Dr Tausif's registration wasn't suspended until May, after a complaint was made about her writing a prescription on a pad signed by her husband, also a doctor at Primary Health Care, in breach of the conditions the board placed on her.

The case came before the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal for hearing last year, and Dr Tausif acknowledged she had prescribed opioids unsafely, and in cases where her notes did not reveal a need for such prescriptions.

She agreed she had prescribed such opioids - at the same time as anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, anti-convulsants, and/or prescription analgesia - in a risky way.

The tribunal found that her behaviour appeared to have gone unnoticed at the Ginninderra and Phillip practices.

"It was apparent to the Tribunal that the respondent's professional problems appear to have gone undetected, uncorrected and unreported in the two practices in which she worked for approximately three years," senior ACAT member Professor Thomas Faunce wrote.

Dr Tausif will now be allowed to practise again only if supervised by an approved person who will help "remedy her deficiencies". She must also report to the Medical Board of Australia, not prescribe certain medications, complete further training and education, and comply with random audits, among other things.

She can apply for a lifting of all restrictions in 24 months' time.