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Pharmacist Makes $126k Selling Stolen Medicine On Trade Me

Registered Pharmacist Jayant Patel guilty of ordering, stealing extra medication and selling it on Trade Me. Photo: Supplied

A registered pharmacist in New Zealand was found guilty of secretly ordering, stealing extra medication and selling it on Trade Me, New Zealand's online auction and classifieds website, from a Pharmacy he had been working at for four years.

38-year-old Jayant Patel made $126,076 over a span of four years by doing this. He was found guilty by the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal of two charges of professional misconduct, bringing discredit to his profession.

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The New Zealand Herald on 19 February reported that Jayant Patel was convicted of theft by a person in a special relationship for selling stolen medication, including pharmacy-only medication, on Trade Me between January 2016 and April 2020.

According to an agreed summary of facts presented to the tribunal on February 19, Patel started ordering extra stock and concealing it in his bedroom and car boot.

To conceal the thefts, he altered each purchase order to avoid recording the additional stock at the pharmacy. Through two Trade Me accounts, Patel sold the medications - including pharmacy-only allergy relief, anti-fungal treatments, iron supplements, antiseptic cream, laxatives, reflux medicine, eye drops, smoking cessation gum, lozenges and patches.

He faced charges for conducting 2000 online sales through 6000 listings, which also featured various general products like dietary supplements, menopause support, skincare, and makeup. Patel was listing and selling products online up to twice a week, the tribunal heard.

The owner of the Pharmacy noticed extra Habitrol Lozenges (used to help smokers quit and must be sold from a licenced pharmacy) on the premises by the end of April 2020. Upon checking, CCTV footage revealed that Patel was responsible for ordering and concealing the medication, leading to an employment investigation. 

A private investigator confronted Patel on April 2, 2020, when the tribunal heard he admitted the thefts, showed the investigator medication he had in his car and at home, and paid back $100,000. The owner then logged a complaint with the  Pharmacy Council, and in May 2020, Patel surrendered his practising certificate while the council referred the complaint to a professional conduct committee [PCC]. He was later suspended.

The owner also complained to the lice for investigation, leading to charges against Patel. He pleaded guilty and was convicted in the District Court of a representative charge of theft by a person in a special relationship in May last year. In August, he was sentenced to six months’ community detention.

On 19 February, Patel - through defence counsel Ian Brookie - disputed three of the 68 types of medication the PCC claimed Patel stole because they weren’t sold at the pharmacy. The PCC accepted two weren’t.

Patel also claimed there were 32 items sold that were given to him by family members or sales representatives, including Voltaren Emulgel and multivitamins.Gillian Weir, the counsel for the PCC, said this was unlikely, and Patel had not presented any evidence to prove the claim.Weir said there were still 66 medications stolen from the pharmacy, including diabetic strips sold directly to another pharmacist.

That was done 11 times when Patel sold 100 strips at a time for $1005 each time.

Weir said the public was entitled to expect Patel would not abuse his privileged position to access pharmacy products for his personal gain.

Brookie said Patel made admissions that formed the basis of the PCC case against him when he was unrepresented by a lawyer.

He stated that Patel did not admit to negligence or malpractice and contended that only a small portion of the stolen medication was pharmacy-only.

The tribunal noted that one aspect of the charge, concerning Patel abusing his position as a registered pharmacist by selling or providing stolen pharmacy products on at least 2000 occasions, was not proven. Nonetheless, the tribunal deemed his behaviour deserving of disciplinary action, and a penalty hearing is scheduled for next week.

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