Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - Pharmacist disqualified for a year following criminal conviction

Pharmacist disqualified for a year following criminal conviction

29 Jul 2022

A tribunal has cancelled the registration of Victorian pharmacist William Trieu, ordered he be reprimanded and disqualified him from applying for registration for one year for professional misconduct.

It followed his earlier conviction on criminal charges for the misappropriation of a high quantity of alprazolam tablets from eight pharmacies where he had been employed.

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) earlier carried out an investigation into allegations Mr Trieu had misappropriated alprazolam tablets from pharmacies where he had been employed. It notified The Pharmacy Board of Australia (the Board) which suspended Mr Trieu by way of immediate action in April 2017. The Board received two further confidential notifications from individuals about Mr Trieu’s conduct in September 2017.

The DHHS investigation led to criminal charges against Mr Trieu and he was convicted in November 2019 of offences including unlawful possession of alprazolam and falsifying related records. In summary, Mr Trieu’s offending involved the misappropriation of 33,250 tablets from eight pharmacies in Victoria over 31 months. During an interview with the informant, Mr Trieu said he had consumed a number of the tablets himself. The sentencing magistrate noted that a large quantity of the drugs remained unaccounted for.

Mr Trieu was placed on a community corrections order requiring him to take part in community work and undergo supervision, drug dependency and mental health treatment. He was later convicted of another unrelated offence in June 2021 and placed on a further 24-month community corrections order.

The Board referred the matter to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) in September 2020. The Board alleged that Mr Trieu had engaged in unprofessional conduct and / or professional misconduct in that he misappropriated alprazolam between 2014 and 2017, was convicted of related offences in November 2019, and failed to maintain adequate professional indemnity insurance (PII) between November 2016 and when it suspended his registration in April 2017.

Mr Trieu admitted that he engaged in the alleged conduct. In its submission, the Board noted his behaviour was deliberate, required calculated deception, involved a vast quantity of a controlled substance and took place over a significant period of time. As a registered pharmacist, the Board considered his conduct was ‘intimately connected’ with his practice and involved an abuse of trust.

In its decision dated 8 December 2021, the tribunal found Mr Trieu had engaged in professional misconduct, noting such conduct was inconsistent with being a fit and proper person to hold registration.

The tribunal accepted that ‘at the very least’, Mr Trieu’s conduct led to the unlawful release of a large amount of alprazolam that could have posed a danger to himself and others. The tribunal further noted that the falsification of records put the health and safety of individual patients at risk.

In relation to Mr Trieu’s failure to maintain PII, the tribunal noted that PII is a base requirement for registration and is there for the protection of the public.

The tribunal considered that serious consequences were required to deter others in the interests of maintaining professional standards and public confidence in the profession. The tribunal noted Mr Trieu has not been practising for more than four years, stating it would have otherwise imposed a substantially longer period of disqualification. Its decision is available on the AustLII website.

 
 
Page reviewed 29/07/2022