18th January 2019, Volume 132 Number 1488

Katharine A Wallis, Susie Middleton

Little is known about disciplinary cases in New Zealand involving doctors and drugs of dependence.1,2 Disciplinary charges against doctors are heard by the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal (HPDT), and prior…

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Summary

We reviewed disciplinary decisions in New Zealand 1997–2016 to describe cases involving doctors and the inappropriate prescribing of drugs of dependence. Drug dependence is recognised as a disease, not a crime. We identified 25 disciplinary cases involving 24 doctors. Most doctors were male, older and working in general practice. Few cases came to light through reporting by colleagues. The penalties were severe, often spelling the end of a doctor’s career.

Abstract

Aim

To describe disciplinary cases for inappropriate prescribing of drugs of dependence by doctors in New Zealand, 1997–2016.

Method

A retrospective analysis of disciplinary decisions to describe characteristics of cases (setting, drugs, outcome) and doctors (sex, specialty, years since qualification).

Results

There were 25 disciplinary decisions involving 24 doctors. Disciplined doctors were mostly male (19;76%), working in general practice (19;76%), and older (mean 24 years in practice). Pharmacists were the most common source of notification to the authorities (6;24%); medical colleagues reported only four (16%). The alleged misconduct often involved behaviour in addition to inappropriate prescribing. In all cases the doctor was found guilty of professional misconduct. Penalties were severe: six doctors were removed from practice, 11 were suspended, and of the remainder all but one had restrictions on practice imposed. In many decisions there was no patient harm documented.

Conclusion

Disciplinary cases for inappropriate prescribing of drugs of dependence by doctors in New Zealand are not common, but the consequences can be dire. The role of discipline in doctors with drug dependence is unclear.

Author Information

Katharine A Wallis, Senior Lecturer, Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, School of Population Health, University of Auckland, Auckland; 
Susie Middleton, Medical Student, University of Auckland, Auckland. 

Acknowledgements

University of Auckland Summer Research Scholarship.

Correspondence

Katharine Wallis, Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142.

Correspondence Email

k.wallis@auckland.ac.nz

Competing Interests

Nil.

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