Cocaine-using pharmacist may enter medical profession

A pharmacist who altered records to obtain almost pure cocaine for his own use has been reprimanded, but could soon be working in a new role within the medical profession.

Michael Decelis now hopes to work in a hospital.

Decelis pleaded guilty to fraud and possession of dangerous drugs in 2017, in relation to the pharmaceutical cocaine he obtained by altering pharmacy records to avoid detection.

He was sentenced to three years' probation, ordered to perform 240 hours of community service and to compensate his employer for the cost of the cocaine.

Decelis has now been publicly reprimanded for professional misconduct by Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal in a disciplinary decision.

The tribunal heard Decelis used the cocaine in the first half of 2015, before quitting his pharmacy job and seeking treatment for drug addiction and mental health problems.

After his conviction, the Health Ombudsman brought disciplinary proceedings against him.

The tribunal was told Decelis obtained five milligram doses of cocaine over seven months in 2015, by ordering it to be sent to his employer's pharmacy.

He obtained the drug, which was significantly more pure than street cocaine, for his own use without authority or a prescription.

The pharmacist was sentenced to three years’ probation, ordered to perform 240 hours of community service and to compensate his employer for the cost of the cocaine. Picture: iStock
The pharmacist was sentenced to three years’ probation, ordered to perform 240 hours of community service and to compensate his employer for the cost of the cocaine. Picture: iStock

Decelis did not renew his pharmacist registration and it lapsed in November, 2015.

When he was sentenced, the judge noted that Decelis had used cocaine to self-medicate and lift his mood during a time he was going through a particularly challenging time.

The judge also recognised that Decelis had stopped working voluntarily and had entered into treatment before his offending was detected.

The tribunal said his rehabilitation had been successful, with Decelis returning clean results under a strict regime of drug testing.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency granted him provisional registration as a medical practitioner in 2018, subject to conditions, allowing him to do an internship.

He hoped to work under an internship as a medical practitioner in a hospital, subject to extensive conditions imposed by AHPRA.

"He has demonstrably abstained from drug use during a stressful time in his life, including the completion of medical studies, the finalisation of criminal proceedings and these disciplinary proceedings,'' QCAT deputy president, Judge John Allen, said.

He said Decelis's misconduct was a serous breach of the professional and legal obligations of a pharmacist in dealing with drugs that were liable to be misused.

"It involved a gross breach of trust expected of him by the public and his employer,'' Judge Allen said.

The tribunal found Decelis was fit to practice.