Pharmacists are the gatekeepers of pharmacy services and play a very specific and important role in the proper and appropriate supply of restricted substances from pharmacies. To support this position, legislation in Australia restricts the ownership of pharmacy businesses to pharmacists. In New South Wales, those restrictions and concurrent obligations are found in Schedule 5F of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (NSW) (National Law).
The Pharmacy Council recently prosecuted the sole financial interest holder (owner) of two pharmacy businesses. The prosecution related to operating a pharmacy business in unapproved premises (ie premises not approved by the Council), and operating a pharmacy business in the absence of a pharmacist. The pharmacy owner pled guilty on both counts and was sentenced at the Downing Centre Local Court.
Remarks made by Magistrate Huntsman during the sentencing hearing serve as a valuable reminder to all financial interest holders about the seriousness of their obligations. Her Honour noted that pharmacists are in positions of trust and provide services to vulnerable people. Financial interest holders should be aware of their obligations under the National Law. Each time an offence of this nature occurs, patients’ health and safety is put at risk.
Having regard to the agreed facts, Magistrate Huntsman found these offences to be at the mid-range of objective seriousness. Her Honour made orders for convictions to be recorded on the pharmacy owner’s criminal record on both charges and issued a fine of $8,500.
Pharmacists should be aware that under the National Law, unsatisfactory professional conduct includes failures to observe obligations relating to the operation of pharmacy businesses. Current and prospective financial interest holders are reminded to familiarise themselves with the Pharmacy Board of Australia’s Guidelines for proprietor pharmacists, accessible from the Board’s website.