GP’s registration cancelled for excessive prescribing of drugs of dependence

19 Jan 2021

A tribunal has cancelled a general practitioner’s registration for excessive prescribing of drugs of dependence and for providing false or misleading evidence.

On 19 December 2018 the Medical Board of Australia (the Board) referred Dr Richard Vucinic to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) for professional misconduct. It alleged that Dr Vucinic:
  • was convicted in the County Court on 9 May 2018 of two counts of prescribing a drug of dependence without ensuring a therapeutic need, contrary to the Drugs Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (Vic)
  • prescribed Alprazolam and Diazepam in excessive quantities and/or without clinical justification to three patients, and
  • provided false and/or misleading evidence to the Board and/or the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) purporting to establish compliance with the conditions of his registration.

The criminal charges related to prescribing to two patients between the period between 27 December 2013 and 28 March 2014. An investigation by Ahpra also identified a third patient to whom Dr Vucinic prescribed excessive quantities of a drug of dependence and/or without clinical justification, during this period.

As a result of the criminal charges and subsequent investigation, Ahpra placed conditions on Dr Vucinic’s registration (by way of immediate action) stating that he must not prescribe any drugs of dependence, including all Schedule 8 drugs, benzodiazepines; and anabolic steroids. He was also required to provide a statutory declaration to the Board each month declaring that he had complied with the conditions on his registration.

On thirteen occasions in March 2015, Dr Vucinic prescribed benzodiazepines to his patients. On 7 April 2015 he provided a statutory declaration to Ahpra in which he falsely stated that he had complied with the conditions on his registration.

On 22 October 2015, the Board suspended Dr Vucinic’s registration by way of immediate action subsequent to receiving another notification in relation to Dr Vucinic, which is not the subject of this referral.

On 4 December 2020, the tribunal determined that Dr Vucinic should be reprimanded, his registration cancelled, and he be disqualified for applying for registration for a period of three years.

In reaching its decision, the Tribunal noted that its role is not to punish but to consider specific deterrence, general deterrence, protection of the public and the need to uphold the standards and reputation of the profession. It noted that that Dr Vucinic’s conduct was not isolated but involved issuing of hundreds of prescriptions that should not have been issued. All conduct related to his role as a medical practitioner. It also noted that although Dr Vucinic pleaded guilty to criminal offences, he now denied their factual basis. He was unwilling to take responbility for his conduct, blamed others for the conduct and demonstrated little insight into the seriousness of his conduct and the effect it had on his patients and the public’s perception of the medical profession. The tribunal also emphasied that disqualification for a period does not mean that a person will be registered at the end of that period. It means they cannot apply to be registered until that period ends.

The full tribunal decision can be found at Austlii.

 
 
Page reviewed 19/01/2021