A Yarraville pharmacist has been fined $100,000 for selling more than 50,000 painkillers to a patient over a three-year period.
Ms Huyen Tran from Kingsville Pharmacy was convicted and fined $100,000 after being charged over hundreds of contraventions of controlled substances legislation.
Ms Tran was found to have accepted fraudulent scripts and dispensed 52,368 tablets containing codeine and paracetamol to the patient between 2015 and 2018 – about 40 tablets per day, escalating to 57 tablets per day by the time the sales triggers an investigation in 2018.
The pharmacist, who has been registered in the profession since 1997, faced Sunshine Magistrates Court last month after pleading guilty to 10 charges relating to 457 separate contraventions of the law between May 2015 and October 2018.
The health department launched an investigation last October after identifying the patient had obtained the highest dose of codeine-containing analgesics in Victoria from Ms Tran’s pharmacy between June and October that year.
Ms Tran told investigators that she didn’t suspect anything was amiss because the patient was a regular customer of the pharmacy.
The offences included supplying Schedule 4 poisons to a patient on 281 occasions upon prescriptions which she had reason to believe had been fraudulently altered, and supply of codeine-containing analgesics to a patient on nine occasions in excess of the instructions written on the prescriptions.
Ms Tran was found to have failed to notify the department on 167 occasions that she was being requested to dispense codeine-containing analgesics to a person in greater quantities or more frequently than appeared necessary.
As well as the $100,000 fine, Ms Tran must pay $10,708 in legal costs. Her registration as a pharmacist was also suspended in March.
In handing down the fine, magistrate Jennifer Grubissa said she found it very difficult to understand how somebody with Ms Tran’s professional background would ever allow herself to be placed in this position.
“There does have to be a very plain way the court can affect general deterrence given the inherent seriousness of the offending behaviour and the potential for very grave harm in respect of offences of this nature,” she said.
Medicines containing codeine – the fourth most common drug linked with overdose deaths in Victoria – are only available via prescription.
A Pharmacy Board of Australia spokeswoman confirmed that Ms Tran was suspended on March 12 this year.
“Our enquiries in relation to the matter are ongoing and we cannot comment further at this time,” she said.
Health minister Jenny Mikakos said Ms Tran fell foul of laws that are in place to keep the community safe from the harms of painkiller abuse.
“Pharmacists are among our most trusted medical professionals and most do incredible work – that’s why it’s so important we identify the rare cases where somebody is doing the wrong thing and putting the community at risk.”