Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - WA pharmacist suspended for two months, reprimanded, and fined $10,000 for non-therapeutic steroid dispensing
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WA pharmacist suspended for two months, reprimanded, and fined $10,000 for non-therapeutic steroid dispensing

06 Mar 2024

A Western Australian pharmacist has been reprimanded, suspended for two months, and fined $10,000 for professional misconduct after inappropriate dispensing of anabolic androgenic steroids.

In January 2015, the Pharmacy Board of Australia (the Board) received information about Mr Chetan Anant Hegde, a registered pharmacist, and his dispensing of anabolic androgenic steroids during the period 1 January 2008 to 30 April 2009. The Board referred Mr Hegde, in May 2017, to the State Administrative Tribunal of Western Australia (the tribunal).

In August 2020, the tribunal found Mr Hegde had engaged in professional misconduct in relation to his steroid dispensing and poor record keeping. The tribunal found that Mr Hegde’s steroid dispensing did not accord with recognised therapeutic standards, either in quantities and/or in combinations which:

  • he ought to have known were not necessary for any proper therapeutic purpose
  • were likely to constitute an unacceptable hazard to the health of patients
  • had the potential for misuse, abuse or psychological and/or physical dependency.

The tribunal cancelled Mr Hegde’s registration and disqualified him for three years. Mr Hedge appealed the decision, and the penalty was set aside.

Following the appeal, the issue of penalty was reconsidered by the tribunal. In November 2023, the tribunal reprimanded Mr Hegde and imposed a two-month suspension and a fine of $10,000. The tribunal decision sets out the following as factors in the decision making:

  • the conduct occurred near 15 years ago, Mr Hegde had undertaken many professional development courses in 2023, and had seen a counsellor
  • Mr Hegde ceased dispensing steroids, has practised without incident in the years since, and is remorseful for his conduct, so personal deterrence is not a major component
  • the matter is not an appropriate case for general deterrence given the extraordinary amount of time which has elapsed since the misconduct and given that rehabilitation is evident and, in any event, general deterrence has been achieved by the publication of the original sanction and related publicity
  • it is satisfied that Mr Hegde is unlikely to repeat the conduct
  • Mr Hegde was inexperienced at the time, being eight years qualified as a pharmacist
  • there has been an impact on Mr Hegde further to the delay in the resolution of the matter
  • in determining the length of the suspension, the prior two-and-a-half-month period out of practise (from the earlier cancellation) has been taken into account
  • conditions are not necessary to ensure protection of the public.

The tribunal accepted the serious nature of the risks of Mr Hegde’s conduct and that there was a ready market for the drugs and financial rewards for practitioners who prescribe and dispense them. The tribunal found that Mr Hegde’s dispensing of anabolic androgenic steroids was serious, having occurred over 16 months with dispensing to numerous patients on many occasions.

The tribunal decision acknowledges that the penalty would have been dealt with differently if it was being dealt with at a time closer to the misconduct of the finding of professional misconduct.

The tribunal’s decision was made on 17 November and is available on eCourts Portal of Western Australia.

Page reviewed 6/03/2024