Doctor falsified prescriptions for codeine

CATE BROUGHTON
Last updated 13:00 22/08/2014

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A doctor with a codeine addiction wrote 54 prescriptions under false names to get access to her drug of choice, a disciplinary tribunal has heard.

The doctor, who was granted permanent name suppression, was fined $6,600 and censured for the offending by the New Zealand Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal.

The doctor, employed by a District Health Board (DHB), began using Nurofen Plus to relieve toothache and continued using it to help her sleep the tribunal heard. By May 2011 she had become dependent on the use of codeine and began writing false prescriptions using family members names, or variations of their names and addresses.

The prescriptions were mainly for codeine phosphate but also included other drugs including Ondansetron, Omeprazole, Fluoxetine, Lorazepam, Propranolol and Zopiclone. She visited 19 different pharmacies around her city to fill the prescriptions.

A liaison pharmacist from the DHB raised concerns about prescriptions in the doctor's name, and police were notified.

The doctor admitted the offending when questioned by the clinical director in October 2012.

A police charge was withdrawn, and the doctor's application for diversion was accepted. In her own evidence submitted for the hearing, she said she had an opiate addiction and was embarrassed and ashamed by what she had done.

In May 2012 she admitted herself to a private psychiatric clinic specialising in addiction and depression and was still living there at the time of the hearing in May this year.

In a letter to the clinical lead at the DHB that employed the doctor said he knew her to be a hard-working, reliable, knowledgeable and dedicated doctor and was surprised to find out she was addicted to codeine, and had been writing false prescriptions to feed her habit.

Under the tribunal's orders the doctor would be able to return to registered medical practice on condition she did not prescribe any controlled drugs or work in a sole practice for two years.

Permanent name suppression was granted by the tribunal, to help facilitate the doctor's rehabilitation.

The tribunal found there was ''not sufficiently strong public interest considerations that require publication of the name of the doctor''. 

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