Pharmacist illegally selling drugs loses registration after patient death

Author
Sam Hurley, NZ Herald ,
Section
Crime,
Publish Date
Thursday, 12 July 2018, 6:16PM
Terrence Wong's practitioner's registration was cancelled for his criminal offending. (Photo / iStock)
Terrence Wong's practitioner's registration was cancelled for his criminal offending. (Photo / iStock)

An Auckland pharmacist has seen his registration cancelled and was banned from reapplying for it for two years after illegally peddling prescription drugs to customers, one of whom died from an overdose.

Park Ung Wong, also known as Terrence Wong, owned and operated Birkenhead Avenue Pharmacy, on Auckland's North Shore.

However, in 2016 he was criminally convicted in North Shore District Court after pleading guilty to one charge of forgery, three representative charges of creating a criminal nuisance and one charge under the Medicines Act of supplying prescription medication.

He was sentenced to 10 months' home detention and 200 hours community service.

Wong had also offered to pay $30,000 in reparation to the family of a man who died from an overdose from medication bought from the pharmacist.

Now, in a decision released today, the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal cancelled Wong's registration and said his offending was "amongst the most serious for a pharmacist".

"The serious patient harm involved for two patients who suffered serious consequences (one died and the other was hospitalised as a result of overdoses), undoubtedly contributed to by Mr Wong's unlawful dispensing to them both," the decision reads.

"The repeated nature of the offending that displayed a serious lack of insight over a sustained period from September 2013 through to July 2015."

For the man who died from an overdose, Wong was aware of the patient's restriction notice and that he was presenting false prescriptions, yet he continued to dispense excessive quantities of prescriptions to him until his death, the decision reads.

"Despite being made aware of his patient's death in January 2015, Mr Wong did not cease his unsafe dispensing practice but continued to dispense unlawfully to other patients," the tribunal said, following a hearing in April.

Wong also tried to hide his crimes by forging a prescription in the name of a doctor to cover up dispensing the drugs to the dead man.

Other attempts to cover his tracks included hiding the records of dispensing prescription medicines and providing his personal bank account details to patients for payment.

The tribunal said Wong's offending involved significant elements of repeated dishonesty and fundamental breaches of professional obligations.

"Mr Wong aggravated matters by also leading his pharmacist employee into the same misconduct.

Sasha Taylor was also working at Wong's Pharmacy during 2014 and 2015 and followed his boss' criminal lead.

The tribunal has also found Taylor, who was working without a current practising certificate, guilty of professional misconduct.

The tribunal censured Taylor, suspended his right to practise for two years, ordered that he complete a course on professional ethics before he resumed practising and that he work for a year under the supervision of an approved pharmacist.

Wong, the tribunal ruled, had taken advantage of his professional position for financial gain and failed in his duty to act as a gatekeeper for patient safety.

"We do recognise that Mr Wong has been able to present mitigating features regarding
his guilty plea, potential for rehabilitation and that this is his first offence.

"However, we were not satisfied that this is an appropriate case for a rehabilitative penalty. Patient safety and the need for professional standard setting must take precedence in this case."

The tribunal cancelled Wong's registration but said it will be possible for him to re-apply for registration with the Pharmacy Council after at least two years.

"In the event that Mr Wong is granted re-registration it is recommended that conditions be imposed that require him to undertake a competency review and that he not be permitted to practice in sole practice for a period determined by the Pharmacy Council," the tribunal said.

Wong was also ordered to pay costs of $7700.

 

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