Posts Tagged "College"


Daphne Bramham: College roots out the bad, white-collar dealers, one pharmacist at a time

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When you think about shady drug dealers, it’s usually in the context of the Downtown Eastside or the Surrey Strip.

But in the last three months alone, the B.C. College of Pharmacists has rooted out some white-collar guys who were running illegal pharmacies, faking prescriptions, doling out methadone improperly, and plumping up their dispensing numbers with made-up prescriptions for over-the-counter drugs and vitamins.

While their crimes don’t have the same kind of mean-streets vibe as the illicit dealers, it doesn’t mean that the guys in white coats didn’t do some seriously bad things.

Let’s start with William Byron Sam, who is still under investigation by the college for “knowingly operating an unlicensed pharmacy.”

A complaint outcome report posted on the college’s website says “serious public risk indicators were present within the pharmacy.“ It doesn’t spell out what those serious risks are and, in an emailed response to my question about where Sam was getting the drugs from, the college refused to say.

In March, the college cancelled the licence for Garlane Pharmacy #2, which Sam was operating at 104-3380 Maquinna Dr. in Vancouver’s Champlain Heights.

(It still has two five-star ratings on Yelp! So, if it’s a legitimate drugstore you’re after, you might want to check the college’s listings.)

Sam’s problems began in 2015 with a practice review, which was followed up by a request for more information. In 2017, the college told him his conduct would be the subject of a hearing, admonishing him for failing to respond to the college after a practice review in 2015 and to a request for more information in 2016.

In May, Salma Sadrudin Damji, another Vancouver pharmacist, was found to have used a prescription pad from a medical clinic and falsified 62 prescriptions for Schedule 1 drugs, which include heroin, LSD, ecstasy and methaqualone (aka Quaalude) using three patient names and two physician names. In May, the college fined her $1,000, imposed a 90-day suspension and forbid her from owning or managing a pharmacy for three years or acting as a preceptor or mentor for pharmacy students.

Beyond that, the college says it can’t comment.

North Vancouver’s Davood Nekoi Panah provided monetary incentives to a patient, dispensed Schedule 1 drugs without an authorized prescription in unlabelled and mislabelled containers — all without taking reasonable steps to confirm the identify of the patients before giving them the drugs.

He was fined $10,000. Starting Sept. 4, he can’t work for two months and can’t be a pharmacy manager or preceptor for two years. Questions about him were also met with a no-further-comment response from the college.

Amandeep Khun-Khun has every appearance of being a good guy. From 2010 until 2012, he was on the college’s community practice advisory committee making recommendations related to community pharmacy practices. He was a preceptor for UBC pharmacy students and was quoted in UBC’s 2013 brochure aimed at recruiting other mentors.

But in June, Khun-Khun was fined $30,000 and suspended from practice for 540 days. He can only return to full pharmacist status if he passes the college’s jurisprudence exam and completes an ethics course.

The mailing address for his company, Khun-Khun Drugs, is the Shoppers Drug Mart on the tony South Granville Rise.

Over three years, the Vancouver pharmacist processed more than 15,000 false prescriptions for vitamins and over-the-counter drugs — things like aspirin and ibuprofen — on the PharmaNet records of seven individuals. But those seven people didn’t know anything about it.

Khun-Khun admitted he “directed pharmacy assistants to process transactions weekly on PharmaNet in order to artificially inflate the pharmacy’s prescription count.”

He did it even though he had previously undertaken to comply with all ethical requirements after earlier complaints.

Part of the reason Khun-Khun didn’t get caught earlier is because neither of the two full-time pharmacists working for him did what they were supposed to. The inquiry committee wrote that both of them “turned a blind eye” to what they knew or should have known was wrong.

They knew or should have known that what was happening was wrong since the transactions were done without patients’ consent and were an improper use and access of personal information.

William Wanyang Lu and Jason Wong were both working for Khun-Khun full-time. Both now have letters of reprimand on their permanent registration file and were required to pass both an ethics course and the college’s law exam or face 30-day suspensions.

Yet Wong hasn’t deleted a comment on his LinkedIn profile that while he worked at Shoppers Drug Mart he was “coached with great mentors at this pharmacy including Amandeep Khun-Khun.”

Among the others disciplined recently is Sing Man Tam. He was fined $10,000 and had a reprimand letter put on his permanent record for his “inadequate diligence and oversight” over two years related mainly to dispensing methadone to addicts to quell their cravings and minimize the effects of opioids.

Tam processed prescriptions without authorization. He also didn’t witness its ingestion, which is legally required (and the reason that pharmacists get $17 for dispensing it rather than the usual $10 for other medications).

He billed for methadone that was marked in the logs as having been “missed” and Tam delivered it without authorization by the doctor who wrote the prescription.

For the past several years, the college has received close to 800 complaints, but many of those don’t require any disciplinary action or even a referral to an inquiry committee. Its statistics cover the 12 months from March 1 to the end of February.

And while the most recent fines and suspensions may not seem to add up to much, the college is not always the final arbiter. The courts are.

In March, Richmond pharmacist Jin Tong (Tom) Li was sentenced to a year of house arrest after pleading guilty to one count of obtaining more than $5,000 under a false pretence.

The charge links back to the college’s disciplinary action in 2016 after it found that Li had submitted more than 2,400 fraudulent claims to PharmaCare between 2013 and 2014 that cost the B.C. government $616,000.

Coincidentally, Li’s pharmacy licence was reinstated as a pharmacist in October 2018, having been suspended for 540 days. He is still banned from being a manager, director or pharmacy owner or preceptor until 2023.

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College of Physicians and Surgeons penalizes doctor for not answering questions

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The medical office of Dr. Viem Chung Nguyen at 1209 Kingsway in Vancouver.


A Vancouver doctor who was ordered to repay the provincial government $2 million in 2017 for overbilling has now been disciplined in another matter by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C.

Dr. Viem Chung Nguyen, a Vancouver physical and rehabilitation specialist, admitted that he failed to respond to multiple communications and correspondence from the college. He has been reprimanded and fined $7,500 by the college. He was also ordered to pay an additional $8,731 in costs after a consent agreement was reached.

Nguyen has also promised not to ignore the college and must respond to all future communications within a month of such requests.

In a bulletin, the college said:

“The inquiry committee was critical of Dr. Nguyen’s failure to respond to College communications. Given the importance that must be placed on physicians being responsive to the regulator, the inquiry committee determined a disciplinary outcome was appropriate.”

The college licenses and regulates over 11,000 physicians across B.C. Its role is to protect the public through the enforcement of high standards in clinical qualifications and ethical practices.

Nguyen’s problems with the Medical Services Commission regarding overbilling dates back to 2017. He was barred from billing the Medical Services Plan for two years but is eligible to re-enroll anytime after May 31. He was able to bill patients and third-party insurers on a private basis since during the time he was temporarily de-enrolled from the public plan.

It is unclear whether Nguyen has paid back the $2 million he was ordered to repay after an audit found a large number of billing irregularities. The government will not disclose such information. 

“Due to privacy restrictions under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the ministry is unable to release any third-party financial information or personal details,” said ministry spokeswoman Kristy Anderson. 

“If an individual fails to pay an amount assessed by the audit, they are referred to the Ministry of Finance to pursue collection action as outlined in the Financial Administration Act or the governing statutes.” 

Last year, a government report said an on-site audit found poor documentation of Nguyen’s patient records and “for several patients, there was no evidence that Dr. Nguyen ever provided any care to that patient.” 

The college’s director of communications, Susan Prins, said she couldn’t divulge whether there is an ongoing investigation into Nguyen’s overbilling.

“This is protected information unless it results in discipline,” she said.

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College of Midwives seeks ban on woman using title “death midwives”

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The College of Midwives of B.C. was in court Thursday seeking to ban a Victoria woman from using the term “death midwife” to describe her work helping people who are dying and their families.

In 2016, the organization that regulates the province’s midwives sent Pashta MaryMoon a letter asking her to stop using the term, but she declined to do so.

The college then filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court seeking a permanent injunction against her.

On Thursday, Lisa Fong, a lawyer for the college, told Justice Neena Sharma that MaryMoon’s use of the term “death midwife” contravened the Health Professions Act.

She said that the law prevents any person other than a registered member of the college from using a reserved title as part of another title describing a person’s work.

“The respondent, Ms. MaryMoon, she carries on business as a death midwife. There’s no dispute. She’s not a registrant of the college. She’s not a midwife. The legislature has since 1995 reserved the title midwife for exclusive use by registrants of the college.”

While MaryMoon may warn her clients that she is not a registrant of the college, the public interest underlying the creation of the reserved title of midwife, which includes creating clarity for the public as to who is regulated and who is not, is still injured by misuse of the term, she added.

The Victoria woman attracted the attention of the college by describing herself as a death midwife on her Twitter homepage and in a biography on the website Dying With Dignity Canada.

MaryMoon says she provides care for the terminally ill and their families throughout the process of dying, including working with them, helping to deal with a deceased body at home, and developing whatever kind of ceremony the family wants.

By contrast, midwives registered through the college have a caseload of clients and newborns from early pregnancy through to six weeks postpartum. There are about 360 midwives in B.C.

Mark Walton, a lawyer for MaryMoon, told the judge that there was no argument his client was engaged in a health profession.

He said MaryMoon was using the term midwife in a very specific way and it wasn’t about pregnancy, or births, or mothers.

“Pashta MaryMoon does something quite different than midwives,” Walton said

He added that MaryMoon has respect for what birth midwives do, but doesn’t think she should be prevented from using the term midwife to describe her work.

MaryMoon is also arguing that her rights to freedom of expression and to life, liberty and security of the person are affected by the college’s position.

The college was also seeking an injunction against Patricia Keith, a Surrey resident, but dropped proceedings against her after she agreed not to call herself a death midwife.

Outside court, MaryMoon explained that what she does with the dying is meant to augment palliative care.

“We’re not a replacement. We’re not medical professionals. But we do more of the sort of psycho-social, emotional, spiritual side of supporting the family and the dying person.”

MaryMoon said that the term midwife has been around a long time and initially involved both birth and death. She questioned whether it should now be an exclusive term for the college.

“We’re saying that we really feel that birthing midwives should call themselves registered midwives, and that would make it really clear that they’re registered with the college and they’re trained to get that registration,” she said.

“And then, if that was the reserved title, then there would be no issue with using the term death midwife.”

The case is expected to be back in court Friday for further arguments.

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