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Echuca doctor pleads guilty to illegally prescribing drugs

A respected Echuca GP has pleaded guilty to illegally prescribing drugs of dependence.

IVY WISE April 2, 2014 3:59pm

A long-time Echuca GP who faces more than $30,000 in fines for illegally prescribing painkillers has blamed inadequate practices for his actions.

Doctor John Quayle, 57, pleaded guilty in Echuca Magistrates Court yesterday to 25 charges relating to breaches of the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act.

They include 494 instances of illegally prescribing drugs of dependence, including morphine, oxycodone, methadone, buprenorphine, fentanyl and dexamphetamine, between March 2011 and June 2013.

Dr Quayle is joint-owner of Rich River Health Group, where he has worked for 15 years.

Russell Kennedy Lawyers principal Ben Lloyd, acting on behalf of Department of Health Drugs and Poisons Regulation Group, said most offences related to prescribing drugs for periods or quantities beyond those specified in a permit and to a patient believed to be drug dependent.

More serious offences included one count of prescribing methadone without a permit and 12 of prescribing dexamphetamine without a permit.

Mr Lloyd said Dr Quayle’s actions were of concern because of the large number of instances and patients and the high quantities.

‘‘This indicates he has not made appropriate efforts to monitor the quantities prescribed to patients and has prescribed without reference to the amounts he has previously prescribed,’’ he said.

Leading barrister Sean Cash said Dr Quayle had not intentionally breached the regulations and his failure to apply for permits was mainly caused by his usual practice of waiting until the patient’s next consultation.

‘‘The patient would more often than not return to see him before the last script was exhausted,’’ Mr Cash said.

Dr Quayle was a highly regarded and respected GP who had made a huge contribution to rural medicine and the Echuca-Moama community, Mr Cash said.

‘‘This is an extraordinarily embarrassing experience for him,’’ he said.

‘‘He is really throwing himself at the mercy of the court.’’

Magistrate Richard Wright fined Dr Quayle $24,000, but did not record a conviction.

Dr Quayle also had to pay a $10,000 cost order and $110.40 in court costs.

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