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Pharmacist struck off for attempting to steal £540 worth of prescription drugs

Fitness to practise Rehan Ullah, registration number 2057170, has been struck off the register after he was caught attempting to steal drugs from a Tesco pharmacy – the GPhC was "not impressed" by his evidence and dismissed parts of his testimonial as "implausible".

Rehan Ullah, registration number 2057170, has been struck off the register by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) for attempting to steal £540 worth of prescription drugs from a Tesco branch in Beeston, Nottinghamshire.

Mr Ullah took two bags of unlabelled drugs including Keppra, Cipralex and Erythrocin from the pharmacy before being stopped by the branch's security manager.

Mr Ullah claimed the tablets were for family members, but the GPhC fitness to practise committee dismissed parts of his testimonial as "implausible" and ruled to remove him from the pharmacy register.

The GPhC struck Mr Ullah off the register after he was caught attempting to steal £540 worth of drugs from a Tesco at which he was working as a locum

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Mr Ullah worked at Tesco as a locum and aroused the suspicions of a trainee dispenser on May 12, 2011, when she saw him put "two large pharmacy bags" of medication next to his personal belongings. The trainee saw the medication was unlabelled and alerted her pharmacy manager to the problem, the committee heard.

As Mr Ullah attempted to leave the pharmacy, he was challenged by the branch's security manager, who asked to search his belongings. The security manager then asked Mr Ullah to accompany him to the storeroom, when Mr Ullah asked if he could leave the bag of medication outside.

In his evidence, the security manager said he believed Mr Ullah was "trying to disassociate himself from the bag", and noted that the pharmacist's hands were shaking when he asked for receipts for the unlabelled medication. Mr Ullah claimed that he had been too "lazy" to label the medication and said he planned to pay for the items when he got in the next day.

When the security manager asked to look inside the bags of medication, Mr Ullah refused and said they were "covered by data protection" as they were prescriptions for someone other than himself. Mr Ullah then offered to put the drugs back on the shelves but was told to leave them in the bags in the dispensary.

The next day, Mr Ullah was asked to bring in the prescription forms for the drugs he had attempted to take. The pharmacy manager was "pretty sure" Mr Ullah had said to him that he had already taken the forms to another pharmacy to be dispensed. But the regional pharmacy manager did not believe Mr Ullah's claims, questioning whether he would have paid for the prescriptions the next day, and dismissed him from his locum work as well as blacklisting him. Mr Ullah also lost his permanent job at Asda as a result.

When the police interviewed Mr Ullah about the incident two weeks later, he stood by his claims that the medication was intended for his family. Mr Ullah also produced three private prescriptions for the drugs issued by his brother, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon. The prescriptions were dated May 10.

But the GPhC fitness to practise committee questioned whether these prescriptions had existed when Mr Ullah attempted to take the drugs from Tesco. It noted that he had given two different reasons for not bringing in the prescriptions to Tesco the next day – telling the manager he had taken them to another pharmacy, but later testifying that he was unable to bring them because they were in a car he was selling. "It may have been that the prescriptions were written later to match the drugs that had been found on Mr Ullah," the committee suggested.

It also pointed out inconsistencies in Mr Ullah's claims that the drugs were for his family. Although he told the pharmacy manager the prescriptions were for his uncle, he told the regulator the Keppra tablets were for his father, despite him having no history of epilepsy.

The GPhC fitness to practise committee said it was "not impressed" by Mr Ullah's evidence and ruled that he was guilty of taking medication without a valid prescription. It also expressed "grave doubts" that Mr Ullah took the drugs for a genuine patient need.

The committee concluded Mr Ullah had been dishonest and lacked "any sort of insight" into his actions, ruling to strike him off the register with immediate effect.

Do you agree with the GPhC's ruling?

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RIK L, Community pharmacist

I agree with Caroline.

Khalil If you truly believe him to be innocent and believe he has done nothing wrong, what is stopping you and the rest of us just strolling out of the pharmacy with a bag full of POMs "for the family?"

Khalil Akbar, Community pharmacist

Rik, i agree with you totally. I am certainly not condoning his actions and were totally wrong. I was just concerned that based on him being found dishonest, which only he knows is true or false-then the punishment is erasure from the records. Now if this was the wrong ruling then the pharmacist would have been struck off and injustice carried out. Based on the probability ruling used for the rulings....even the panel being 51% sure would lead to the decision being made unlike in common law where a much higher percentage is needed. I feel the system is perhaps unfair and certainly looking at past verdicts....inconsistent too! Many cases have seen pharmacists admit to their errors/activities with Controlled drugs and so on-yet the punishment was a warning or a few months suspension!

Amal England, Public Relations

Many pharmacists send unlabelled boxes to care homes, GP surgeries, vet clinics etc, and then the requisition or private script shows up with a cheque in the post Weeks later. What is the difference between this and what Mr Ullah did? It is very easy to get hold of a private script for almost anything. GPhC has got this totally wrong. It seems only the PDA has any really concern for pharmacists and pharmacy.

Khalil Akbar, Community pharmacist

This is one side of the story....until both sides are seen or heard then i think it is unfair to comment or make strong statements. I have known the pharmacist in concern for many years and i have seen documentation and his statements-and they differ from the version of events above. CCTV evidence which the police used to CLEAR him after their investigations was NOT submitted to the commitee by Tesco. As it was a civil case-therefore this was not a requirement for Tesco to do so.....why not? Also, again due to the civil case-the committee need to be 51% sure in terms of probability that there was dishonesty here and the onus is on the pharmacist to disprove this......which seems unfair. For criminal cases-it is more like 90% and the jury need to be very certain the decision is correct.

The case hearing was only confirmed as going ahead-a couple of weeks prior to the case as initially the GPhC had requested to delay the hearing-therefore the brother who was the key witness was not able to cancel the surgical list and attend. His statement was not given any weight at all seemingly as were other mitigating factors. Essentially it came down to his word against the Tesco witnesses-despite police clearing him based on the statements and CCTV evidence!

He admits being lazy and careless-in terms of not labelling the prescriptions and completing the Register entries, but certainly not dishonest!

I think surely the sanctions of the GPhC need to be throughly re-examined. There are cases whereby there is clear evidence and indeed admissions of guilt..........and the punishments given out will be a few months suspension or a warning issued. In other cases, such as this-the punishment issued is an erasure from the register.....5 years minimum off the register without appeal. The only way to appeal is via the High Court in London......which i believe Mr Ullah is instigating to appeal the decision and to clear his name. The GMC have been involved and looked at the situation and CLEARED his brother of any wrongdoing. Again, this is an example the GPhC should be following. Members are backed until they are proven guilty, Unfortunately, with our profession, we are not backed whatsoever and left to prove our innocence when a case is brought against us, instead of the guilt being proven!

Caroline Jones, Locum pharmacist

Another bad apple shaming the membership. Why do they do it! I hope the GPhC does a complete job now and follows this investigation up with the bad apple doctor brother too via the GMC and not take the usual attitude of 'musn't upset doctor'. The GMC should then prosecute that brother for those 'private scripts' he provided as that was clearly aimed at perverting the course of justice. I doubt it though as the GMC is far too lax in policing its own membership and the GPhC won't have the guts.

Caroline it's Claire from Sainsburys Lloyds Telford - please contact me as soon as possible 07843098041 xXx 

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