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Pharmacist given warning for incorrectly dispensing ‘abortive agent’



A Dublin pharmacist who incorrectly dispensed medication that can terminate a pregnancy to a pregnant woman has been given a warning by the The Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI) and has agreed not to repeat the conduct.

Donal O’Donovan, who worked as a locum pharmacist at Corrigan’s pharmacy, Malahide road in Clontarf, Dublin 3, was the subject of a fitness-to-practice hearing on Thursday and Friday.

The statutory inquiry heard that the woman, referred to as Patient A, attended Corrigan’s pharmacy on June 10th, 2018, to have a prescription for aspirin and cyclogest, a progesterone medication, dispensed.

The patient (34) had discovered she was pregnant, following multiple miscarriages, and was advised by her consultant to take the medication to minimise the risk of another.

However, Mr O’Donovan said he misread the prescription and instead dispensed cytotec, which is used to treat stomach ulcers, and can be used off-licence as an abortive agent.

Patient A took the drug for two days before she discovered a warning which stated that those taking the medication should not operate heavy machinery.

She returned to the pharmacy to question if she had received the correct medication and the supervising pharmacist, Eamon Fitzgerald, who had not been at work when it was given to her, confirmed that the wrong medication had been dispensed.

He advised Patient A to attend the emergency department.

In her statement, read out by Hugh McDowell, the counsel for the registrar, patient A said: “I was devastated. It was awful. I was of the view that if I continued to take it . . . I would have lost the baby.”

After attending the Rotunda hospital, and multiple check ups, Patient A subsequently gave birth to a healthy baby.

Mr O’Donovan faced three allegations: the supply of medication otherwise than in accordance with the prescription and in a manner that was not clinically appropriate; a failure to counsel the patient; and a failure to adequately review the prescription.

Mr O’Donovan accepted the facts of the case and did not contest the “seriousness” of the allegations.

In his statement on Thursday, Mr O’Donovan said he was “devastated” by the error, that he regretted it and was sorry.

“This is a dispensing error by me. I am extremely disappointed in myself. I regret this error and I’m sorry,” he said.

His counsel, Helen Callanan SC, said her client “respectfully” asked the committee to consider dealing with the matter by way of undertaking.

The hearing continued on Friday, when the committee agreed to deal with the matter by way of undertaking and said it was “the most lenient” they could be given the allegations.

Under Sections 46(1) A and 46 (1) D of the pharmacy act of 2007, Mr O’Donovan agreed to not repeat the conduct to which the complaint related and consented to be admonished by the committee.

An admonishment is a sanction. It is the lowest sanction which can be applied and does not restrict the right of a registrant to practice.

His counsel asked for the requirement to be admonished to be revisited, noting that it seemed “possibly disproportionate”.

The committee considered the application to avoid section 46(1) D for Mr O’Donovan to be admonished but was persuaded that it should not do so in Mr O’Donovan’s case.

Mr O’Donovan gave the undertakings to the committee and consented to the admonishment. He read a sworn statement agreeing not to repeat the conduct that was subject to the complaint again.

Mark Kane, chairman of the inquiry said Mr O’Donovan was “effectively discharged” and said the committee accepted the undertakings and consents.

The committee will be writing a shorter report in respect to this matter, Mr Kane said.



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