A doctor censured for serious misconduct after she admitted falsifying prescriptions and consuming the drugs herself admits her actions were wrong but says she did it to relieve "pain and discomfort".
The woman, whom the Herald has agreed not to name, was charged with professional misconduct by The Medical Council of New Zealand's professional conduct committee.
The Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal censured her following a hearing in August.
In a decision released last month, the tribunal also ruled if she resumes practising she must follow a series of conditions for three years.
These include informing future employers of her misconduct, prohibiting her from prescribing or dispensing controlled drugs and remaining under supervision.
The doctor's offending occurred over 15 months to May last year and involved multiple prescriptions for prescription medicine zopiclone and/or controlled drug triazolam, a benzodiazepine. Both are used to treat insomnia.
The woman previously worked at several Auckland hospitals, but has not practised since 2012.
In the agreed summary of facts, she acknowledged she had self-prescribed zopiclone and triazolam between February 2014 and May last year.
"On all of these occasions the prescriptions were for 60 tablets with two repeats (a total of 180 tablets). [She] acknowledges that she withheld information from her medical practitioners as to her use of these medications. [She] did not discuss her use and the quantity of her use of these drugs with her medical practitioners," according to the tribunal's report.
"[She] consumed Zopiclone and Triazolam without appropriate monitoring and oversight and developed a dependency on these medications."
[She] also targeted a particular pharmacist, calling before sending the prescription request to make sure the pharmacist was working. She sought prescriptions for four different people from this pharmacist but admitted to using the drugs herself.
She presented prescriptions for another person at various pharmacies in Auckland, and then consumed the medication herself. A sixth person's name was also used to secure more drugs, again for her personal use.
All of those whose names were used by her to get prescriptions have name suppression, as do the pharmacists who dispensed the drugs.
The tribunal also heard there had been a previous complaint to the Medical Council after the doctor prescribed triazolam to a person in 2013. She said the person was visiting and had lost her medicine, but was cautioned by the Medical Council "regarding her prescribing to those close to her".
Last year, the doctor told a medical professional she had misled her medical attendants with regard to her use of zopiclone and triazolam, prescribed the same drugs to another person and used the leftovers herself.
The medical professional told the doctor's GP, and also said the doctor had been using both drugs "for a number of years, going back to when [she] was doing shift work".
The medical professional is working with the doctor to wean her off both drugs, according to the tribunal report.
Medical Council professional conduct committee counsel Kate Feltham acknowledged the doctor had co-operated with the investigation and suffered significant medical issues, details of which are suppressed.
However, it was aggravating that she had previously been warned about prescribing to those close to her, her offending took place over a 15-month period and was premeditated and prescribing in the name of others put those people at risk of having incorrect medical records, which could affect prescribing doses in future.
The doctor's counsel, Harry Waalkens, said her conduct was "explained in large part by her extreme ill health and other surrounding circumstances".
She had no previous convictions or adverse findings and no third parties had suffered as a result of her actions.
She was sorry, he said.
In a statement through her lawyer, the doctor said the episode had been an "absolute nightmare".
"She recognises that what she did was wrong but did it for what she thought at the time were good reasons - to reduce her pain and discomfort she was going through."
Her practising certificate had expired in late 2014 and she was seeking to renew it because she believed there were professional opportunities for her, which would enable her to resume her career.
"Whatever penalty the tribunal elected to impose should take into account the prospects of [her] rehabilitation and, as he put it, provide her with 'a source of hope'."
Meanwhile, the tribunal has also cancelled the registration of a nurse who has been convicted of indecent assault on a child aged under 12. The nurse, who was sentenced to two years jail, was also censured and must satisfy imposed conditions before he may apply for re-registration.
The nurse has interim name suppression while he appeals to the High Court against the tribunal's decision to decline permanent name suppression.