Chemists Cut Drug Price To Lure Addicts
Sydney Morning Herald
Wednesday May 30, 1990
Some Sydney chemists are slashing the cost of the tranquilliser Rohypnol by up to 20 per cent to attract young teenagers who abuse the drug, according to the president of the Pharmacy Board, Mr Ken Bickle.
And even though the State Government's pharmacy watchdog has known of the practice for at least two years, it has done nothing to get charges brought against the chemists responsible, Mr Bickle said.
The Pharmacy Board hears all disciplinary cases against chemists. But investigations of misconduct and the laying of charges are the responsibility of the pharmaceutical services branch of the Department of Health.
Mr Bickle said he had made several representations to the branch on the problems of Rohypnol in the past two years and it had done nothing.
The director-general of the Department of Health, Dr Amos, said last night that while he deplored the morality of it, there was nothing illegal in chemists discounting Rohypnol.
He also said that the department had no record or recollection of Mr Bickle approaching it to investigate the discounting of Rohypnol.
Mr Bickle told the Herald that the board knew of chemists who buy the drug in bulk in order to receive a discount from its manufacturer, Roche.
They can then sell Rohypnol profitably for $9.50 or $10 instead of the normal $12.
Discounting the tranquilliser, which is responsible for the deaths of at least two teenage girls, by $3 or $4 per 25 tablets, was nothing but "an undercover way of promoting its use", Mr Bickle said.
If it could be shown that a chemist was discounting the drug in order to attract the lucrative custom of drug addicts, that could be grounds for a charge of professional misconduct, he said.
Until now, the State Government has been advised that the faddish abuse of the drug was mainly confined to the inner city, although there was evidence that it was starting to take hold in Campbelltown.
There is now more evidence that Rohypnol abuse has taken root in the western suburbs: a mother whose 21-year-old daughter is fighting heroin and Rohypnol addiction contacted the Herald yesterday and said the drug had been freely available to her daughter in the area.
The State Government, which is awaiting permission from the Federal Government to use Medicare's database to track down doctors who are over-prescribing Rohypnol - sometimes to patients as young as 12 - is now considering reclassifying the drug.
Dr Amos said last night that Mr Bickle's suggestion that Rohypnol be reclassified as a Schedule 4D drug was "very sensible".