A pharmacy owner has been struck off the professional register for dispensing “excessive” quantities of dihydrocodeine and intimidating a member of staff.
Zafferabbas Mukhtar, registration number 2051643, was found to have “virtually no expression of insight” into his “inappropriate and dishonest” supply of the painkillers, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) concluded at a fitness-to-practise hearing on April 27.
The GPhC accepted that Mr Mukhtar had no prior disciplinary history, but stressed that he had exposed patients to potentially “very serious harm” and had done little to address his faults.
Mr Mukhtar was the owner and responsible pharmacist of Unicare Pharmacy in Willesden Green, London, when the GPhC inspected his premises in October 2011. The inspector found the responsible pharmacist log was poorly maintained, there was a lack of clear standard operating procedures – particularly in the case of controlled drugs – and it was unclear whether staff had undertaken accredited training, the GPhC heard.
Despite being told to improve his procedures, the inspector found Mr Mukhtar had made “minimal progress” when she returned in January. She was particularly concerned by the private prescription register, which showed that Mr Mukhtar had given out 400 dihydrocodeine tablets on numerous occasions between March and November 2011, sometimes without a prescription.
The police interviewed Mr Mukhtar under caution in March 2012, when he admitted to making large supplies solely on the back of telephone requests from a local doctor. Mr Mukhtar said the doctor usually signed prescriptions after the supply had been made, but had failed to do so on some occasions.
Mr Mukhtar had interpreted the doctor's directions to mean he should dispense the drug in batches of 400 tablets per month, leading to some patients receiving up to 3,200 tablets in eight months, the GPhC heard.
Mr Mukhtar came to the attention of the GPhC again when a pharmacist colleague accused Mr Mukhtar of being intimidating towards her. This involved visiting her home in April 2013 when he believed she had lied about being ill, and threatening to report her to the GPhC for incorrect payment claims in front of customers.
The GPhC’s fitness-to-practise committee said some of the colleague's evidence was “unconvincing” – including her claims that she was tricked into falsifying requests for service payments – but believed Mr Mukhtar had been intimidating.
The committee also expressed strong concerns over his supplies of dihydrocodeine due to the drug’s potential for abuse. Mr Mukhtar admitted to the GPhC that he “took his eyes off the ball” in relation to the pharmacy's procedures, but denied that he had made the supplies dishonestly.
However, the GPhC ruled that failing to adhere to procedures over a period of eight months amounted to a “conscious pretence of a basis for a supply that simply did not exist”. It highlighted that Mr Mukhtar stood to make a small financial gain from the supplies, and found he had acted dishonestly.
It conceded that Mr Mukhtar held a previously unblemished record and that testimonials from other professionals described him as “reliable and trustworthy”. But it ruled that Mr Mukhtar’s dishonesty and “reckless” disregard for GPhC standards warranted removal from the register.
Read the full GPhC determination here.