A pharmacist who sold 39,200 Valoid tablets to a customer over a six-month period has been ordered by the Statutory Committee to have his name removed from the register.
At its meeting on June 13, the committee inquired into the case of Mr Michael John Wallace Haynes, superintendent pharmacist of P. Phipps Chemists Ltd, 8 Bagatelle Parade, Five Oaks, St Helier, Jersey.
A complaint had been received from the Council of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society that, over the period from April 14 to October 22, 1999, Mr Haynes had purchased a total of 51,200 Valoid tablets, which contain cyclizine. Of those, 39,200 were unaccounted for other than by retail sale to one individual. It was alleged that selling large quantities of a medicine with a known potential for abuse might amount to such misconduct as to render Mr Haynes unfit to have his name on the register.
Mr Haynes was present at the inquiry; he was not represented.
Mr G. Hudson, of Penningtons (solicitors), appeared in order to present the facts of the case to the committee.
The committee heard that in May, 1999, the chief pharmacist for Jersey, Mr Don Gillyet, had been alerted by a local pharmacist (not Mr Haynes) that he had concerns about requests from a member of the public for the supply of what he considered excessive supplies of Valoid. The chief pharmacist had then set in train the cascade system operating in Jersey, whereby pharmacists pass information on to each other, so that they could be made aware of a potential problem relating to the supply of Valoid or cyclizine.
In October, 1999, Mr Gillyet had received information that the local Alcohol and Drugs Service had received a telephone call from a female employee of a local pharmacist alleging that large quantities of cyclizine were being received at the pharmacy and supplied “through the back door”. The pharmacy was not identified.
Mr Gillyet had made inquiries of a wholesaler supplying many of the local pharmacies and ascertained that Mr Haynes’s pharmacy had been supplied with large quantities of Valoid tablets between May and October, 1999. After taking advice from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Mr Gillyet had informed the local police. It had been explained that, if the allegations were true, the dealings would constitute an offence as the sales would not have been made from registered pharmacy premises.
Mr Haynes had been visited by two police officers, with Mr Gillyet and a member of the Society’s staff. When one of the police officers had told him that information had been received that large amounts of cyclizine were being supplied to his pharmacy, Mr Haynes had immediately volunteered that all of his sales had been to one person whom he identified by name. He said he had been told the tablets were for the customer’s own use, to be used in first aid boxes for employees of his logistics company.
There was a carton containing 20 boxes of 100 Valoid tablets in the dispensary. Asked if he had any further stock, Mr Haynes had initially said he had not. When pressed he admitted there were 10,000 more tablets in the boot of his car.
Mr Haynes told the committee he had been out of practice for about 10 years before 1998 and said he had been unaware that cyclizine was a medicine liable to misuse by illegal users of opiates. He had not seen the information circulated among Jersey pharmacists in May warning that an individual was seeking large quantities of cyclizine, as he had been on holiday. Mr Haynes agreed that he would not have sold that quantity of Marzine to one person.
He told the committee the customer used to telephone with requests to supply a certain quantity of Valoid tablets and would be told the price. The customer had been charged Mr Haynes’s cost price plus 50 per cent, less 10 per cent. A cheque would be sent and Mr Haynes ordered the supplies after the cheque had been cashed. The cheques had been banked but not put through the shop till as, he said, he did not wish the staff to know his business. The customer came into the pharmacy, usually on a Saturday, and would say who he was and what he had come for, collecting the parcels openly, said Mr Haynes.
Valoid was a pharmacy medicine, and he had no reason to think there was anything wrong in making the sale. He admitted he had been foolish but, he said, he had not known the drug could be abused.
A police witness told the committee that the customer, who had been traced, came from Cheshire, where cyclizine tablets fetched £2 each on the illicit market. He had been checked as travelling to and from Jersey on short visits at least five times in 1999. No legal proceedings had been taken against Mr Haynes as the sales had been transacted through the pharmacy and not through the “back door”.
Giving the committee’s decision, the chairman (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, QC), said that the case was a rather curious one. The allegations being looked into by the police had concerned the sale of a pharmacy medicine not from pharmacy premises. Quite properly, on the basis of the evidence, Mr Haynes had not been charged with any criminal offence.
The committee had then to consider whether Mr Haynes’s conduct had been such as to make him unfit to be on the register. Mr Haynes’s explanation as to why he had sold a very considerable quantity of Valoid tablets had been that he had been out of practice for some time and was not aware of the improper use to which cyclizine might be put, particularly by those taking illegal opiates.
The committee had difficulty in accepting that. It was clear that Mr Haynes had known of the risks of Marzine; he had indicated he would not have sold such quantities to one individual. It was startling to the point of disbelief if he did not know that Valoid was effectively the same drug. There was also uncertainty in the minds of the committee as to why the tablets had not been supplied in an open and forthright manner in the pharmacy, although it was accepted the cheques did go through the pharmacy books. And there was also concern that the police had found a significant quantity of tablets in his car.
In the circumstances the committee was unwilling to accept that Mr Haynes had simply been naive. It seemed extraordinary that he had not appeared to take any action to discover why his customer wanted such large quantities of the drug, or even if he lived on the island.
Public put at risk
Mr Haynes had demonstrated a complete lack of professional expertise: the public had been put at risk, no check had been made on the customer or on the use of the tablets, and no warning had been given. There were far too many danger signals that should have been picked up.
The chairman asked whether there was anything further the committee should know before coming to a conclusion on whether Mr Haynes’s name should be removed. The committee was informed that Mr Haynes had had his name removed from the register previously, in 1987, following an inquiry into an allegation of misconduct, an unsupervised sale and offences involving the falsifying of endorsements on NHS prescriptions. His appeal for restoration in 1997 had been successful.
The chairman said that the degree of misconduct was such that the committee had to direct that Mr Haynes’s name should be removed from the register.
Mr Haynes has three months in which to appeal.