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Independent.ie, January, 20 2012
by Mark Hilliard

A DOCTOR yesterday admitted over-prescribing several patients with addictive prescription tranquillisers in contravention of medical guidelines.

Dr Mohammed Ahmed Khan, who has a practice in Dublin's Wicklow Street, told a Medical Council fitness-to-practise hearing that he accepted critical findings made against him in an independent report.

The hearing heard that he had over-prescribed the drug to four patients in terms of both quantity and the duration of the prescription.

This became known when a concerned pharmacist, John Irwin, noticed the prescription levels and reported his concerns to the Medical Council in December 2010, although he did not make a formal complaint.

Dr Khan's charges referred specifically to benzodiazepines - a prescription drug that includes Valium - which are used to treat a variety of conditions, including anxiety and panic attacks.

Patients can become addicted within four to eight weeks, a time span that is comparable to addiction to nicotine or heroin, the hearing was told.

Facing five charges in total, Dr Khan was accused of placing "undue reliance" on the drug and of failing to comply with or observe good-practice guidelines in relation to their prescription as published by the Department of Health.

He was also charged with failing to make adequate inquiries as to other treatments that his patients may have been receiving, failing to arrange for a referral to a specialist and failing to prescribe the most appropriate medicine.

While Dr Khan did not give evidence at yesterday's hearing, his legal team told the committee that he agreed with the facts as set out by an independent expert witness, Professor Colin Bradley of UCC, and that it amounted to poor professional performance on his part.

Professor Bradley told the hearing that small, short-term prescriptions of the drug were recommended in official medical guidelines and that patients should be made aware of their addictive nature.

"Very particular advice is given to practitioners dealing with patients dependent on benzodiazepines," he said.

However, the committee heard that even after the matter was brought to the attention of the Medical Council, Dr Khan continued to prescribe the drug to his patients.

Prof Bradley also said that there were alternative treatments available, such as psychotherapy combined with other drugs.

Going through the records of one particular patient, the inquiry noted that the prescriptions had been reduced but that this reduction was not maintained.

Prof Bradley described this as being a "tentative approach" towards lowering the prescription levels.

Barrister Simon Mills, representing Dr Khan, pointed out that despite this there had been some efforts to reduce it.

He also said the patients in question were already dependant on the drug, adding: "It is not the case that Dr Khan turned them into addicts."

At the end of the hearing, the committee adjourned to consider its findings and both parties agreed to be informed of the outcome in writing.


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