Schedule 8 warning for employee and proprietor pharmacists

Websize Practice Alert Image 2

Recently, a notification was made to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Authority (AHPRA) concerning a proprietor of a pharmacy. The notification alleged that the pharmacy failed to appropriately control the dispensing of Endone, a Schedule 8 medication, to an employee of an aged care facility.

Pharmacists at the pharmacy had dispensed the medication following receipt of medication charts from the facility. The request would usually comprise a cover page which detailed the requested medication, and the corresponding drug chart. In the event that the pharmacy could not locate a current prescription on file, the medication would nevertheless be supplied to a staff member of the facility in the interests of ensuring continuity of supply.

As you would be aware, Schedule 8 medications cannot be supplied without a valid prescription or telephone order.

The Decision of AHPRA

In this instance, the proprietor had not personally dispensed the medication. However, following an investigation, AHPRA proposed to caution the proprietor and impose a condition that he undertake a one-off audit.

AHPRA made reference to the Pharmacy Board of Australia’s Guidelines for Proprietor Pharmacists, which outline that a pharmacist who is a proprietor of, or who has a pecuniary interest in, a pharmacy business must maintain an awareness of the manner in which the pharmacy business is being conducted and, where necessary, intervene to ensure laws, standards and guidelines are adhered to.

As such, the proprietor was responsible for ensuring that the pharmacists were lawfully dispensing Schedule 8 medications, as well as carrying out regular and appropriate medication checks at the facility. It was not relevant that the pharmacists may not have been concerned as to the amount of the medication requested or the frequency of each request.

Involvements of Employee Pharmacists

It is not surprising that following its investigation into the proprietor, AHPRA decided to investigate at least three of the pharmacists who had actually dispensed the medication. Despite the pharmacists informing AHPRA that they were following the pharmacy’s procedure in place at the time, all three pharmacists were cautioned and reminded of their dispensing obligations. One particular pharmacist was only a recent graduate at the time.

Lessons Learned

The decision sends a clear message that the Pharmacy Board of Australia expects proprietor pharmacists to ensure that pharmacists under their control are lawfully dispensing medications, and that they are being vigilant to ensure that a supply of a Schedule 8 medication is done so lawfully. It is also a timely reminder to employee pharmacists that simply following the pharmacy’s established procedures does not excuse unlawful dispensing. Every pharmacist has an individual obligation to ensure compliance with the relevant laws, standards and guidelines.

Written by Kellie Dell’Oro, Principal, Meridian Lawyers with the assistance of Lloyd Hutson, Paralegal.

For immediate advice and incident support, call PDL on 1300 854 838 to speak with one of our Professional Officers. We are here to support our pharmacist members 24/7, Australia-wide.