Sophie Ryan

Sophie Ryan is an NZME. News Service reporter.

Doctor sustained 'devastating' drug addiction

The doctor told the HPDT that her addiction began in 2006. Photo / Thinkstock
The doctor told the HPDT that her addiction began in 2006. Photo / Thinkstock

A doctor lost her job for writing false prescriptions to sustain a "devastating" drug addiction.

The doctor, who can't be identified, wrote 54 false prescriptions for codeine phosphate under different names for her own use.

She has been censured by the Health Practitioners' Disciplinary Tribunal (HPDT) for her professional misconduct.

The doctor wrote prescriptions for codeine phosphate and various anti-anxiety, anti-nausea and sleeping pills for her own use under her name, names of family members and various addresses, and took them to 19 different pharmacies in the city she lived in.

At a Health Practitioners' Disciplinary Tribunal (HPDT) the doctor said the addiction had "a devastating effect on her life and her profession as a doctor".

The doctor told the HPDT that her addiction began in 2006 when she was using Nurofen Plus to help with toothache, and then began using to it help her sleep.

She said by May 2011 the addiction became a dependence and she began writing the false prescriptions.

She said she was deeply embarrassed about what she had done, and had been in a private psychiatric clinic for two years to deal with her addiction, depression and underlying issues causing the addiction.

The prescriptions caught the attention of the Liaison Pharmacist from the DHB Pharmacy, and in 2012 the Internal Audit Manager at the DHB was notified about a concern regarding prescriptions issued under the doctor's name.

The police became involved and the doctor was charged with a single representative charge of using a document under section 228(b) of the Crimes Act 1961.

The doctor applied for police diversion which was subsequently granted in September 2013.

The Medical Council Professional Conduct Committee investigated and laid a professional misconduct charge against the doctor with the HPDT.

The doctor lost her job with the DHB shortly after confessing to her employer in October 2012 that she had misused the prescription pads, and that she had a codeine addiction.

She has been receiving a sickness benefit, and no longer has a practising certificate.

The Medical Council ruled that on her return to registered medical practice the doctor would be prohibited from working alone and prescribing or supplying any controlled drug to any person for two years.

The doctor must maintain regular contact with her general practitioner for three years and immediately advise any future employers of the professional misconduct.

She must also undergo regular drug testing for three years.

She was ordered to pay costs of $6600.

The doctor's identity was suppressed to ensure her rehabilitation was not hindered and because her offending had never posed any risk to the public, the HPDT ruled.

In 2008, Dr Fergus Bruce Aitcheson of Gisborne was suspended for 12 months for forging prescriptions for pain-killer pithidine. Dr Aitcheson had admitted to the Medical Council he had a drug addiction.

Codeine phosphate:

• is used for the relief of mild to moderate pain
• is used for the relief of symptoms of diarrhoea (except diarrhoea caused by poisoning)
• used regularly for a long time can lead to addiction
• can result in withdrawal symptoms if treatment stops
• may cause drowsiness or a decrease in alertness in some patients.

SOURCE: MEDSAFE

- APNZ

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