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Pharmacist struck off for illegitimate codeine supply after threats to family

A pharmacist has been struck off the register following a conviction for fraud and the illegitimate supply of medicines after he was threatened with a gun, knives and “consequences” for his family.

Kapil Ramesh Rabadia, registration number 2075823, was handed the judgement at a General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) fitness-to-practise (FtP) hearing held last month (April 13-14) via remote video link.

 

The committee heard how he was convicted of “fraud by abuse of position and being concerned in supplying controlled drugs following a guilty plea” in September 2021, according to a determination document published last week.

 

Mr Rabadia “facilitated the removal of over 2,000 bottles of codeine linctus along with Phenergan from the pharmacy premises” after being threatened by four men, it said.

 

Read more: Pharmacist slapped with 12-month suspension for illegal supply of 2m pills

 

He is currently serving a concurrent sentence of 12 months imprisonment for fraud and six months in respect of supplying a Class B drug, suspended for 18 months and due to expire on October 25, it added.

 

The regulator accepted that Mr Rabadia “was subject to coercion from unknown individuals” and that there is no evidence of either financial gain for him or harm towards the public.

 

But it stressed that his conduct “took place over a substantial period of time” and that he supplied “excessive amounts” of the drugs “outside of the legitimate supply chain”. 

 

 

Threats against his family

 

 

Mr Rabadia was employed as a pharmacist and pharmacy manager at Golborne Pharmacy from October 2015 until June 2019, according to the hearing document.


In May 2018, he advised two men with a private prescription for codeine linctus and Phenergan to purchase the medication over the counter to save money but refused to sell them any more after they returned on “at least three more occasions within a few weeks” to buy the drugs.


On his way home from the pharmacy that day, he was “approached by four men asking why he had refused to make the supplies” and telling him that if he did not continue “‘there would be consequences’ for him and his family”, the GPhC heard.


Read more: UK gang members jailed for part in illegal sale of prescription meds worth £3.7m

The men told him that there were “people watching his wife and daughter” and showed him “two knives and a gun that were tucked into their trousers” and as he approached his house, he noticed a vehicle waiting outside and saw a hand come out of a window and “wave him on”.


One of the four men called him in the pharmacy the following day saying he knew Mr Rabadia had seen the vehicle outside his house and that they were “not messing around”, adding that he wanted “in excess of 100 bottles” of both codeine linctus and Phenergan, the GPhC heard.


Mr Rabadia ordered “excessive amounts” of the drugs over the next few months, with the men calling the pharmacy during the week to confirm they were ready. When the medicines arrived, they would be placed at the front of the pharmacy and the men would collect them and leave without paying, the committee heard.



“Immense loss”



The regulator heard that in June 2019, Mr Rabadia’s employer questioned the quantities of codeine linctus and Phenergan that had been ordered over the previous year but he “initially told his employer that the orders were legitimate and the supplies were being made to customers over the counter as miscellaneous sales”.


Mr Rabadia later “emailed and informed his employer of the threats made and the coercion he had been subjected to” and the matter was referred to the police.


Read more: GPhC strikes off pharmacist for supplying zolpidem on black market

As well as the two suspended jail sentences, Mr Rabadia was sentenced in 2022 to 200 hours of community service following a guilty plea, with a victim surcharge of £180.

During sentencing, the judge said that he was “quite sure” that Mr Rabadia was “telling the truth about everything”, saying he “clearly made no money out of this at all” and that his actions were “of absolutely no benefit” to him and caused him “immense loss”, according to the GPhC.


“Positive testimonials”


The regulator accepted that Mr Rabadia was “subject to coercion from unknown individuals” and that there was “no evidence” that he made any “financial gain”, as well as the fact that he “demonstrated insight into the seriousness of what he had done”.

Other mitigating factors including that there was “no evidence of actual harm occurring towards patients or the public” and that Mr Rabadia pleaded guilty to the offences in court, it said.

The GPhC said that it “had regard to the positive testimonials” provided by a solicitor and registered pharmacists who had worked and/or trained with Mr Rabadia attesting to his “ability as a pharmacist” and “trustworthiness and good character”.

Read more: Pharmacist struck off after £530k fraud spree to cover gambling debts

Mr Rabadia told the panel that “in the four years since the events in question he has gone through changes in his personality, has changed his social circle, reflected on his decision-making and is now mentally much stronger”.

He said that he “wasn’t thinking of where the medications would end up” – such as with “vulnerable young adults” – and that “fear took over and clouded [his] judgement” but that “if he was in a similar situation in future he would act 100% differently”.

“He realised when being sentenced that he could have gone to prison and he cried,” the hearing document said, adding that that “changed him”. 

Read more: Pharmacist struck off for stealing almost £45k worth of stock from employer

The regulator also heard how he has done some voluntary work in a cancer charity, “continued to read” C+D and tried to do “some voluntary work within pharmacy” to maintain his professional skills and knowledge during the COVID pandemic.

“Since the events has asked about seven or eight pharmacy businesses if they will give him unpaid work to maintain his skills – not associated with tills or counter services – however when he tells potential employers about his convictions, they refuse to help him,” the hearing document said.

Read more: Man charged after whole drawer of Diazepam stolen from Sussex pharmacy

Mr Rabadia has “been training as an electrician, plumber and heating engineer since being suspended from pharmacy practice and, if returned to the register, he would like to qualify as an independent prescriber and work in general practice, possibly part time and also perhaps start his own business in the trades he has been training in”, it added. 

In a letter to the committee, Mr Rabadia said that he is “regretful” for his “misconduct” and takes “full responsibility”, adding that he has “been on a journey of reflection” and believes he “can be a better pharmacist than [he] was before”.


“Sustained breach of trust”


But the regulator stressed the aggravating factors of the case, including that Mr Rabadia’s “conduct took place over a substantial period of time”, was a “sustained breach of trust” and was “likely to have continued were it not for the initial findings made by his employer”.

Mr Rabadia “supplied excessive amounts of codeine linctus and Phenergan outside of the legitimate supply chain which posed an actual risk to members of the public”, it said.

“As a result of his failure to speak up, over 2,000 bottles of codeine linctus made their way out of the legitimate supply chain and very likely ended up being misused by vulnerable individuals,” it added.

Read more: Watchdog ‘not yet assured’ GPhC has fixed fitness-to-practise concerns

And the GPhC said that his conviction – which resulted in a custodial sentence “albeit a suspended one” – “relates to his position as a pharmacist who is a gatekeeper of access to medicines”.

Mr Rabadia “accepted that he ought not to be allowed to return to practice until his suspended sentence has elapsed in November 2023” but said that he hoped he would then be allowed to return to the register following a review, the document said.

If removed from the register, he “would not be able to apply for restoration for another five years”, meaning “in effect, a sanction of nine years or more” with “the delays since the events through no fault of his”, it added.  

Read more: Will regulatory reforms make fitness-to-practise processes swifter and fairer?

But the regulator concluded that Mr Rabadia’s conduct “presents an actual or potential risk to patients or the public” due to its “seriousness” and the “lengthy period” in which it took place and that it was “such as to bring his profession into disrepute”.

“He abused [his] position of trust in ordering excessive amounts of medication that only he would have access to as a pharmacist and supplied that medication to unknown, potentially dangerous individuals with no regard as to where that medication might end up,” it said. 

Read more: Fitness-to-practise: Your guide to interim orders

It added that he “clearly breached one or more fundamental principles of the profession” such as “a commitment to safeguarding patients and the public from abuse or misuse of medications”.

“The committee…was in no doubt that the public’s trust in the pharmacy profession would be irrevocably undermined if a finding of impairment were not made given the circumstances of this case” and it concluded that Mr Rabadia's fitness to practise “is currently impaired by reason of his convictions”. 


“Suspension not sufficient”


The committee “carefully considered” whether a suspension would be “appropriate and proportionate” but concluded that this “would not be sufficient to send out a clear message, both to practitioners and to the public, of the gravity of the findings”.

It found that Mr Rabadia’s conviction is “fundamentally incompatible with continued registration” and that “removal from the register is the only sanction that will adequately protect the public and mark the gravity of [his] conviction by maintaining public confidence in the profession and in the regulator”.

Mr Rabadia’s removal from the register will not take effect until May 12 or once any appeal process has concluded, although an interim suspension took immediate effect and will be in place until then, the GPhC said.


Read the full determination here

 

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