A Northern Irish pharmacist has been struck off the register for illegally selling “massive quantities” of controlled drugs.
Maurice Oliver Currie, registration number 2674, was in April sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment, for 12 offences relating to the illegal supply of more than 875,000 tablets of medication including diazepam and co-codamol,the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland (PSNI) heard at a fitness-to-practise hearing on September 17.
PSNI accepted that Mr Currie suffers from clinical depression and had apologised for his actions. It also noted that he had made no financial gain from his misconduct.
But the regulator stressed that he had “persisted in acts of criminality and misconduct” despite being investigated by NI government watchdog the Medicines Regulatory Group (MRG).
Mr Currie was the superintendent of Arden Health Limited, trading as Healthstar Pharmacy, in 2011, when a routine MRG inspection raised concerns about discrepancies in the Armagh pharmacy’s controlled drugs register,PSNI heard.
Mr Currie failed to cooperate with the MRG’s recommendations and the ensuing investigation in 2013 revealed a “wide range of professional failings”, including his failure to record accurate details of every controlled drug he obtained and supplied, the PSNI heard.
“Frustrating the investigation”
The MRG also found that Mr Currie had attempted to “frustrate the investigation” and conceal his actions by ordering 22,000 tablets of diazepam, zolpidem, zopiclone and tramadol from a wholesaler in England, the regulator heard.
In a court case in April 2015, Mr Currie received a 12-month custodial sentence after pleading guilty to 12 offences of either supplying drugs unlawfully or without a prescription. This included more than 145,000 50mg tramadol capsules and almost 153,000 5mg diazepam tablets.
Mr Currie’s representative at the fitness-to-practise hearing “frankly acknowledged the gravity of these matters”, PSNI noted. He stressed that Mr Currie is making “positive progress” in dealing with his depression.
Mr Currie wanted to “formally acknowledge his wrongdoing” and had been assessed as “being sufficiently low risk as to be eligible for early release from prison”, his representative added.
The regulator said it was “deeply struck” by the number of charges brought against Mr Currie, who had “engaged in a five-year programme of continuous, deliberate and persistent criminality”. He had also “ignored the investigative process” and then attempted to “subvert it to hide discrepancies”, it added.
PSNI said it “could not ignore the potentially very high risk to the public” if Mr Currie was permitted to practice as a pharmacist, and ruled to strike him off.
Mr Currie's conviction earlier this year prompted the Northern Irish government to announce tougher checks to prevent the illegal sale of controlled drugs.
Read the full determination here.