Pharmacy supplements shelf. Photo: Andrew Quilty
A bayside pharmacy has been reprimanded for misconduct after selling pseudoephedrine – a key component in illicit drugs such as speed – to drug runners without taking industry standard precautions.
The Pharmacy Board of Australia took the action against the owner of Terry White Chemist Wynnum Plaza Pharmacy, Jason Tavakol, after irregularities in the sale of pseudoephedrine – or PSE – were uncovered.
In a recently published Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal decision, Judge Alexander Horneman-Wren, SC, said there was a “marked increase” in the sale of PSE products from June 2009 onwards.
The majority of “inappropriate” sales were made by Mr Tavakol’s then-wife, pharmacy manager Sara Naghdi, Judge Horrneman-Wren said he had “knowingly failed in stopping the sales” by allowing his marital relationship cloud his professional judgement.
Mr Tavakol had his registration suspended for a month – from June 5 to July 3 this year. Ms Naghdi also received a months’ suspension.
Judge Horneman-Wren said Mr Tavakol admitted he should have realised the spike in sales did not reflect seasonal trends.
“Furthermore, in giving evidence to the tribunal, Mr Tavakol conceded that he should have known that the pharmacy was being targeted by drug runners,” he said.
Mr Tavakol also admitted to overstocking PSE beyond the “just in time” basis, which required pharmacies to limit their stock to just what was needed for one day’s trading.
The pharmacy also dispensed large quantities of PSE to customers, although they were questioned as to why so much was required.
One one occasion, a patient said he required two months’ supply because he would be travelling to a remote area.
“Mr Tavakol says that he now realises and fully appreciates that PSE runners know what to say and how to act when engaged in investigative discussions with a pharmacist,” Judge Horneman-Wren said.
“That realisation, of course, does not address the circumstances, as occurred with the covert purchasers from Queensland Health, where the customers were not engaged in investigative discussions at all.”
In that undercover sting, Queensland Health staff bought pseudoephedrine products from the pharmacy between June 23 and July 9, 2010 and had identified a lack of quality standards, such as offering alternative non-PSE products.
As a result, staff pharmacist Phillip Hung was suspended for three months – suspended for 18 months – after he conceded he sold pseudoephedrine “in a volume and at a frequency beyond that necessary for therapeutic purposes”.
“I am satisfied that Mr Hung’s conduct amounted to, at least, unprofessional conduct,” Judge Horneman-Wren found in a separate judgement.
In addition to the suspension, Mr Tavakol was required to undergo six months of supervised practice in an accredited pharmacy for at least two hours a month, followed by a period of professional mentoring.
Mr Hung was also required to seek professional mentoring. Both Mr Tavakol and Mr Hung were required to pay costs.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly named Jason Tavakol as John Tavakol.