Pharmacist who admitted fraud faces lifetime ban

A South Auckland pharmacist who last year admitted making fraudulent claims worth nearly $220,000 could lose his right to practice.

The Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal yesterday found Andrew Douglas Pellowe guilty of breaching fitness-to-practice standards, rather than the lower, professional misconduct charge his lawyer Brent O'Callahan argued for.

The tribunal reserved its decision on what penalty he would face.

Pellowe, owner and operator of Dawson Road Pharmacy in Flat Bush, South Auckland, last year admitted 47 charges of using a document for pecuniary advantage.

He was sentenced in the Manukau District Court in October 2006 to 18 months' imprisonment, with leave to apply for home detention.

Pellowe admitted his pharmacy, which gained substantial income from claiming subsidies from Counties Manukau District Health Board for dispensing and supplying pharmaceuticals, sent in 8390 fraudulent claims worth $219,366 between October 2003 and September 2005.

Certain repeat medications were processed through the pharmacy's computer as if they had been dispensed, although they had not been.

Many repeats processed this way were either not collected by patients or not collected within the 90-day expiry period.

It was estimated Pellowe gained about $175,000 from the offending, as some patients requested their repeat prescriptions after the expiry date.

Matthew McClelland, lawyer for the Professional Conduct Committee, which brought the charge before the tribunal, said Pellowe should have his registration permanently cancelled.

"Dishonesty is not acceptable and is not tolerated by the public or the profession. Unless exceptional circumstances exist, this type of offending must result in cancellation of the practitioner's registration," he said.

Mr O'Callahan said previous decisions by the tribunal relating to cases which he said showed greater levels of dishonesty had resulted in suspensions, and Pellowe should not have anything harsher than that.

The tribunal can impose a suspension of up to three years on Pellowe if it does not cancel his registration.

Mr O'Callahan also asked the tribunal to reject Mr McClelland's request for costs from Pellowe, saying he had been co-operative. A decision on Pellowe's penalty may take about three weeks.

- NZPA

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