12 Apr 2023
A Queensland medical practitioner has been reprimanded and suspended for three months by a tribunal for professional misconduct involving inappropriate prescribing.
Dr Julie-Ann Bradford was referred to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) by the Medical Board of Australia (the Board) which alleged she had engaged in professional misconduct when prescribing certain medication including peptides, she:
At a hearing in February 2023, the tribunal heard that between March 2012 and May 2017, Dr Bradford had prescribed to four different patients compounded peptides substances, human growth hormone and similar medications, in circumstances where such medication was not appropriate for the patients and were of a kind that had limited specific use for conditions not shown to be present in the patients or were medications of no recognised therapeutic value.
Dr Bradford’s clinical records did not document she had informed the patients of the clinical rationale for using the medication, the risks it posed, or information about alternative treatments and their risks and benefits.
Examinations or assessments of the patients were not conducted, and Dr Bradford did not prepare any treatment or management plans. She did not follow up any possible effects of these compounds on her patients to determine if they were causing harm.
Dr Bradford had prescribed the compounds not because of any diagnosed medical conditions but because she had been told by the supplier that they were beneficial for the patients. She had also self-prescribed a number of these compounds, contrary to the Board’s Code of conduct for medical practitioners.
The tribunal determined the conduct alleged amounted to professional misconduct and ordered:
Expert evidence provided to the tribunal was that Dr Bradford’s conduct was unsatisfactory and substantially below the standard reasonably expected of a health practitioner of equivalent training and experience. The expert evidence stated that while not illegal in Queensland, self-prescribing was fraught with danger and risked misjudgement.
In explaining her conduct, Dr Bradford said she had attended training seminars provided by a pharmaceutical company at which it was asserted that these materials had various benefits for patients and were safe to prescribe. There was no evidence before the tribunal that she had taken any steps to check this information from an independent source. This explanation did not address the failure to keep proper medical records and to obtain informed consent or to treat patients in a scientific way.
While the tribunal considered that this case was ‘not a particularly bad example of inappropriate prescribing’, it still needed to consider general deterrence: '… the decision of the tribunal must show that the maintenance of professional standards is important and is taken seriously. Doctors are not just there to sell products.’
The tribunal decided that there was no alternative to a period of suspension to act as a general deterrence and maintain professional standards. It said a fine may amount to ‘no more than a tax on inappropriate prescribing’.
Read the tribunal’s full decision on Supreme Court Library Queensland.