Owner of Sunrise Pharmacy in Penticton gets suspension, $20K fine for misconduct revealed after overdose death of employee

Pharmacy OD probe ends

A Penticton pharmacist has been handed a three-month suspension and been ordered to pay a $20,000 fine, after actions the BC College of Pharmacists deemed to be misconduct were revealed following the overdose death of a teenage employee.

In a decision dated Oct. 26, the College noted that owner, manager and pharmacist Joelle Mbamy of Sunrise Pharmacy acknowledged "in part" that she "dispensed methadone or Opioid Agonist Treatment (“OAT”) without the appropriate directions or without appropriate completion of the required documentation or both," and stored methadone in a non-secure manner, allowing her underaged employee to be alone with the medication.

A pair of investigations were conducted in 2018 and 2019, in the wake of the death of that teen and further complaints.

He was found deceased in his bed on Sept. 19, 2017, the morning after going home sick from his shift at the pharmacy. An autopsy determined the 15-year-old boy died of a methadone overdose. 

The amount of the drug in his system indicated he would have fallen ill within 30 minutes of consuming it. He first vomited at work at 7 p.m. on Sept. 18, 2017, and had been at the pharmacy since about 3:30 p.m. that day.

The College's findings do not include evidence the boy obtained the methadone from the pharmacy, but surveillance tapes revealed he was "permitted to be in the dispensary and the compounding rooms in Sunrise Pharmacy without supervision on thirteen separate occasions for varying lengths of time."

The College also found that in July 2019 Mbamy had "altered a prescription" and was "dispensing methadone pursuant to that altered prescription and failed to obtain a corrected prescription from the physician," also dispensing Suboxone with incorrect instructional labelling. All of this happened after a stop-dispense order had been issued in May 2019.

Inspection of the pharmacy also revealed non-sterile and unsanitary storage and preparation of intravenous solutions, expired drugs stored among non-expired drugs and a litany of missing information on official records and prescriptions, according to the College.

In light of these findings, the College inquiry committee ordered that Mbamy be suspended for three months, be banned from dispensing narcotics or preparing intravenous medication for 18 months and retake several pharmacy management and ethics training programs before that ban is lifted. 

She will also pay a fine of $20,000 to the College. 

"The totality of her conduct demonstrated an egregious breach of trust and undermines the integrity of the profession," reads the decision.

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