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Pharmacy manager who stole to pay for mother’s cancer treatment struck off

A pharmacy manager has been struck off for selling stolen pharmacy stock worth over £40,000 on eBay, the regulator has revealed.

Pharmacist Olufunke Anthony, registration number 2072195, used the proceeds from stolen test strips to pay for breast cancer treatment for her mother, who lived in Nigeria, the General Pharmaceutical Council’s (GPhC) fitness-to-practise (FtP) committee heard on October 19 2023.

Ms Anthony was sentenced to 12-months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, at Maidstone Crown Court on October 4 2022 after pleading guilty to “theft by employee” at Maidstone Magistrates’ Court on January 4 2022, according to the FtP hearing document.

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Under the terms of the suspended sentence, which is ongoing and unlikely to be completed until October 2024, she was required to complete “up to 26 days’ rehabilitation activity requirement” and a “Thinking Skills” programme for those considered at risk of reoffending, it said.

Ms Anthony was neither legally represented nor present at the GPhC hearing as she said that she “could not afford the cost” and that she was “not strong enough to attend” – although she did not produce any medical evidence or ask for an adjournment, it added.

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The committee acknowledged that the stolen goods were not “medications or drugs”, that there was “no evidence of harm to the public or patients” and that Ms Anthony had apologised, shown remorse and repaid her employer most of the cost.

But it stressed that hers was a “very serious offence” that took place in the course of her pharmacy practice over “a sustained period” and brought the profession “into disrepute”.

 

“Suspicious behaviour”

 

Ms Anthony had worked as pharmacy manager at Paydens Pharmacy since May 2018 until her dismissal in February 2021, according to Kent Police’s summary of evidence presented to the committee.

Between October 2020 and February 2021, she ordered “surplus stock” into the pharmacy that she would then smuggle out of the store to sell online through eBay, it said.

After her colleagues became aware of her “suspicious behaviour”, an internal investigation was launched in January 2021, it added.

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On January 23 2021, one of Ms Anthony’s colleagues said that she saw her take “a box of medical supplies” into the pharmacy toilets and then move the box into her car, according to the hearing document.

The colleague noticed that more medical supplies went missing on February 1 and on February 10, Ms Anthony removed another box, saying that she was delivering them to “a neighbouring surgery”, it said.

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And on February 11, Ms Anthony was seen placing a postage label for an address in Italy onto a box filled with medical supplies, it added.

Paydens Pharmacy calculated that Ms Anthony had stolen supplies worth £40,133.47, including VAT, according to the police report.

Evidence provided to the FtP committee by the pharmacy showed that the value of the “unaccounted for” supplies was “about £35,000”.

 

“Deeply sorry”

 

In a telephone interview with her employer on January 16 2021, Ms Anthony “failed to admit her dishonest behaviour” when confronted with the concerns against her, the committee heard.

But Paydens Pharmacy reported Ms Anthony to Kent Police on February 25 2021 and she was interviewed on June 15 2021, where she provided police with a written statement admitting the allegations against her, the hearing document said.

In her statement, she expressed that she was “deeply sorry” for the theft and promised to “pay the money back in full”, adding that she had already begun doing so.

 

“Personal pressure”

 

At her sentencing, the judge noted that in addition to dealing with the illness that would ultimately take her mother’s life, Ms Anthony was under “personal pressure” during the COVID-19 pandemic as the “sole provider” for her two “small dependent children”, with an out-of-work partner who provided “very little by way of emotional support”.

The judge said that at that point, Ms Anthony had repaid “almost two thirds” of the value stolen to the pharmacy “in circumstances that were financially difficult”, according to the hearing document.

Read more: The right to a day in court: In-person GPhC hearings

They assessed from her character references that Ms Anthony was “a person of positive good character”, who was seen to go “the extra mile”, it said.

Ms Anthony also wrote a “sincere” letter of apology and had “no previous convictions”, the judge noted.

The judge determined that Ms Anthony’s sentence should be suspended for two years, with the “primary reason” being the effect that it would have on her children, who would otherwise be placed into the care of social services.

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Nevertheless, the judge found that Ms Anthony’s theft involved “some considerable degree of planning”.

And the harm caused by Ms Anthony extended beyond “mere financial loss” since it caused her to lose the trust and respect of her colleagues and prompted an internal investigation, they said.

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The judge added that Ms Anthony’s conviction would result in the “loss of [her] professional registration”, which would “far outlast any punishment the court can impose”.

They said it would be “unlikely” that Ms Anthony could “practice in the field” that she had “worked so hard in which to qualify” again.

 

“The price she must pay”

 

In determining the sanction against her, the FtP committee gave “weight” to the judge’s expectation that Ms Anthony would be struck off as it indicated the “expectations of an informed member of the public”.

The committee noted that Ms Anthony had made “early admissions” to the police and that she had pleaded guilty “at the earliest opportunity”.

And it went so far as to describe her crimes as having an “altruistic” motive, since they were committed to pay for her mother’s medical treatment.

Read more: GPhC updates FtP hearings guidance with new discrimination directions

However, it found that Ms Anthony had abused the trust of her employer – exacerbated by her role as pharmacy manager - and defrauded it of “significant sums of money” in a “methodical” crime that required “preparation and planning”.

The committee found that she “did not behave with honesty and integrity” and had “breached several of the fundamental principles of the profession”.

Read more: GPhC: Non-white pharmacists ‘over-represented’ in FtP concerns

It noted too that since Ms Anthony had chosen not to engage in the proceedings, it could not “be confident the offending behaviour will not be repeated” or that she had “genuine insight” or had “fully remediated”. 

The committee concluded that Ms Anthony’s fitness to practise was impaired due to her conviction and that her removal from the register was “the price she must pay” for her conviction. 

Read the full determination here.

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