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Doctor warned over prescription to addict

The Evening Post, New Zealand
July 8, 2000

The Health Ministry has sent a warning letter to a Wellington Hospital doctor who prescribed Valium to a known drug addict - a breach of drug laws. It will also continue to monitor the doctor's work to ensure he does not make further mistakes.

It was reported last month that the doctor, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was under investigation for prescribing diazepam, a muscle relaxant and anti-convulsant, and clonazepam, an epilepsy drug, to a drug addict.

Diazepam is better known as its brand name Valium.

Police and prison officials alerted the ministry to the doctor's mistake after the drug addict appeared in court. Capital Coast Health is also looking into the matter.

The addict, Cyril Boyle, 37, last month pleaded guilty in Wellington District Court to a charge of obtaining documents (medical prescriptions) capable of being used to obtain a benefit and three charges of theft.

Ministry senior medical adviser Stewart Jessamine said yesterday that a letter was this week sent to the doctor reminding him of his obligations under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

Under the Act, people who are known drug addicts can be prescribed drugs only by certain doctors. The Wellington Hospital doctor was not one of those listed.

"We take any breach seriously and will investigate and prosecute when needed," Dr Jessamine said. "However, in this situation it appears this was a one-off event and a letter of warning has been sent."

Capital Coast mental health director Peter McGeorge could not be contacted for comment on whether it would take disciplinary action against the doctor.

Medical Council chief executive Sue Ineson said the council had not received any information about the doctor or the allegations against him so it had not considered whether action was necessary.

Usually the employer, ministry or police would notify it if there were concerns about public safety, she said.

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