Pharmacist’s ‘staggering’ drug scam to feed hidden addiction
A former Gold Cost pharmacist took a "staggering" amount of morphine, and other drugs, home from the pharmacy for his own use, a tribunal has heard.
Stone Needham was managing pharmacist at Hope Island Pharmacy in 2012 and 2013 when he dishonestly obtained a large quantity of controlled drugs, a tribunal heard.
They included morphine, dilaudid, pethidine, physeptone, oxycodone, OxyNorm and MS Contin, Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal was told.
Mr Needham would order the drugs from a wholesaler or another pharmacy, on behalf of Hope Island Pharmacy.
The Health Ombudsman said the amount of morphine that Needham obtained over 13 months was "staggering", with him taking home 1750 vials of the drug for his own use.
"He must have been using approximately three vials a day of morphine tartrate," a QCAT judicial member said.
He said it was "unusual, to say the least" that Needham was able to hide what must have been a very serious addiction, and still carry out his duties over 13 months.
Needham also failed to keep proper drug records at the pharmacy.
On 31 occasions he allowed an unauthorised person, his girlfriend, to enter details of controlled drugs he had dishonestly obtained in a controlled drugs book.
"Despite his obvious opiate addiction and 'staggering' level of use of the drugs taken by him, he was still able to act in a calculating way by attempting to interfere with records to hide his misconduct," the member said.
Controlled and restricted drugs were found at his home during a search in February, 2013.
The Pharmacy Board put restrictions on his practice, because of his very significant opioid dependence.
However, he breached some conditions, including having amphetamine, methylamphetamine and MDMA in his urine when he was drug-tested.
Needham was allowed to work as a pharmacy assistant at a Tweed Heads pharmacy from December, 2015, to May, 2016.
On a day in mid-2016, when he trespassed on a property while intoxicated, he was admitted to hospital on an involuntary treatment order.
He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder with narcissistic traits, the tribunal heard.
Needham has not worked since 2016.
"The failure to keep records, in breach of the law, was designed to conceal the respondent's own misconduct in dishonestly obtaining drugs of addiction from the pharmacy for his own use over a lengthy period," the tribunal member said.
Needham's pharmacist registration expired in 2016.
The tribunal heard Needham, now 39, had a Bachelor of Pharmacy and Masters of Pharmacy from Griffith University and had received a number of academic awards.
The tribunal reprimanded Needham for professional misconduct.
On September 2, it ordered that he could not work as a pharmacy assistant or dispensary assistant or technician unless he obtained registration as a pharmacist.
"He will have to convince the Board that he is no longer impaired and is fit to practise, if indeed he does decide to apply for registration in the future," the member said.
Originally published as Pharmacist's 'staggering' drug scam to feed hidden addiction