03 Aug 2022
A Victorian medical practitioner has had his registration suspended for two months and been reprimanded for falsely prescribing oxycodone and misleading the Medical Council of New South Wales (Medical Council).
On three occasions in 2019, Dr Lodhi prescribed a Schedule 8 medication on hospital prescription forms in the name of a friend, intending to use the medications himself. A pharmacist called the hospital with concerns about one of the prescriptions and the person who came to collect it. A check by the hospital showed that there was no record in the hospital records of the patient for whom the script was written and the person who presented the script matched a description the hospital gave of Dr Lohdi. A hospital doctor made a notification to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra). As Dr Lodhi’s principal place of practice was in New South Wales at the time, Ahpra referred the matter to the Health Care Complaints Commission in New South Wales.
On 19 June 2019, the Medical Council considered the matter and decided to impose interim conditions on Dr Lodhi’s registration.
The matter was then referred to Ahpra and the Medical Board of Australia (Board) for investigation, noting that Dr Lodhi’s principal place of practice had changed to Victoria. It was further alleged that Dr Lodhi misled the Medical Council in that he was not forthcoming about the amount and nature of his self-prescribing in another person’s name.
The Board referred Dr Lodhi to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (tribunal) who, on 22 April 2022, found that Dr Lodhi had engaged in professional misconduct.
While Dr Lodhi admitted to both falsely prescribing and misleading the Medical Council, he submitted that he had not intentionally misled the Medical Council.
The tribunal was not satisfied that Dr Lodhi had unintentionally misled the Medical Council. The tribunal agreed with the Board that by providing false information to the regulator, Dr Lodhi interfered with the ability of the regulator to protect the public. The tribunal observed that it is essential that practitioners tell the truth in immediate action proceedings, regardless of how anxious or intimidated they may be.
In making its decision, the tribunal considered Dr Lodhi’s admissions, insight, and remorse. It considered the stressors in his life at the time of the false prescribing but placed limited weight on these. The tribunal noted the steps Dr Lodhi had taken towards rehabilitation, including abstaining from opioid use. It noted that Dr Lodhi had complied with the immediate action conditions that no further notifications had been made.
The tribunal reprimanded Dr Lodhi and suspended his registration for two months, starting on 23 May 2022. The tribunal noted that were it not for the mitigating factors, they would have ordered a much longer suspension.
The tribunal highlighted that ‘this case illustrates the hazards for doctors … who may find themselves drawn to self-prescribing controlled substances, thinking that they can manage overwhelming stress themselves by doing so. It underlines the importance of ‘putting your hand up’ for help before you put your career at risk. And it provides an example of the important role that pharmacists play in identifying unlawful prescribing’.
The tribunal’s decision is published on the Austlii website.