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‘Last chance’: Pharmacist found with £10 cannabis bag suspended for nine months

A pharmacist has been handed a nine-month suspension and warned that failure to engage with the regulator may leave it with no option but to strike him off the register after repeated cannabis use.

A pharmacist has received a nine-month suspension, four years after he was convicted of possessing a “£10” bag of cannabis, a General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) fitness-to-practise (FtP) committee found at a review hearing held last month (March 21).

Rebin Abdullah, registration number 2213446, was arrested in March 2020 after police found him in possession of a bag of cannabis he paid £10 for, according to the papers of his first review hearing in 2023.

A “road-side drug wipe” of Abdullah’s car was also conducted and it “tested positive for cannabis”, the hearing documents said.

Read more: Covert surveillance: GPhC may abandon ‘never used’ spying powers

Abdullah pleaded guilty to possession of cannabis at Cleveland Magistrates Court in September 2020 and received an £80 fine, a £32 “victim surcharge” and £85 in costs, according to the papers of his principal hearing in 2022.

But he failed to inform the regulator that he had received a conviction, the papers said.

Read more: Jhoots superintendent slapped with responsible pharmacist warning

The regulator last month accepted that Abdullah had apologised for not engaging with previous committees’ guidance, which he said was because he “had been distracted with having to deal with criminal proceedings in respect of which he had now been acquitted”.

But it stressed that he “had not provided any evidence” to persuade the committee that he had “reflected on his misconduct over the past 24 months” since his previous review hearing.

 

“Sustained” use

 

Abdullah had admitted to “sustained” use of cannabis and had previously been suspended from practice in 2019 for five months for “consuming cannabis”, the GPhC noted at the time of the principal hearing in 2022.

He did not attend the 2022 hearing, which found that “little weight” could be given to the “evidence of insight” provided by Abdullah at his 2019 hearing and handed him a 12-month suspension, the documents said.

He also failed to attend the review hearing last year, which led to a further 12-month suspension that was set to expire this month (April 7), they added.

Read more: 'Disgraceful' pharmacy technician struck off for selling stolen test strips on eBay

But Abdullah did attend the latest hearing last month, where his legal representative did not challenge the regulator’s submissions in the case, the papers said. 

The committee heard that the GPhC had launched a further investigation against Abdullah for working while suspended, although he said that he had “remained obedient to the terms of the suspension”, they added.

This investigation was paused “pending the outcome of the connected police investigation” and the committee was advised not to base its decision on this information since no finding had yet been made, according to the papers.

 

“Softened stance”

 

The regulator asked the committee to “consider removing” Abdullah from the register in its written submissions, given his “sporadic interest in engaging” with the FtP process and “extremely delayed or non-existent” correspondence with the GPhC, the papers said.

But at the hearing, the GPhC “softened its stance” after it was presented with “a significant change” in Abdullah’s position and an explanation of his “lack of engagement in the past”, they added.

Abdullah’s legal representative told the committee that he had criminal charges brought against him in 2021 that had required “all his energy and focus”, they said.

Read more: ‘Ashamed’ pharmacy technician struck off for stealing oxycodone

He conceded that Abdullah had not “discharged the persuasive burden” that would show he should be allowed to continue to practice as a pharmacist, according to the papers.

But he said that if the committee extended his suspension for a further nine months, it would allow Abdullah to “engage with professionals and to demonstrate his remediation”.

On the morning of the hearing, Abdullah also provided a witness statement asking for “a further period of suspension…to allow him to demonstrate his remediation and rehabilitation”, the committee heard. 

 

“Risk to patients”

 

The committee found that there was no “independent evidence” that Abdullah was currently abstaining from using cannabis, meaning that he continues to be a “potential risk to patients and the public” and his fitness to practise remains impaired.

While Abdullah failed to engage in previous hearings, which the committee had found “very concerning”, it noted that he had participated in this hearing “albeit late in the day”.

It determined that removal from the register would be “disproportionate” in light of his engagement in the process and instead imposed a further nine-month suspension, as well as an interim suspension until the decision came into effect.

Read more: Pharmacist struck off after death threats, harassment and cocaine use

But the committee stressed that the coming nine months could be Abdullah’s “last chance” to show his remediation, undergo testing “and to engage with a clinical assessment”. 

It warned Abdullah that failing to “meaningfully engage” may lead to a future FtP committee considering removal from the register as its “only remaining option”.

Read the determination in full here.

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