TOO MANY PAINKILLERS

By BELINDA SCOTT

DOCTOR Barry Cross was found guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct in a case before the NSW Medical Tribunal which ended on Thursday.

A spokesman for the Health Care Complaints Commission said as a result the Coffs Harbour general practitioner had had conditions placed on his practice.

He is required to be supervised by a nominated supervisor of the Medical Board on a quarterly basis, specifically to monitor the prescription of Panadeine Forte.

Dr Cross' records are also to be audited and he will no longer be permitted to prescribe benzodiazepines.

He also has to undertake a university course in general practice prescribing.

In the Medical Tribunal hearing, which was held this week before Justice Reg Blanch, the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) accused Dr Cross of professional misconduct.

Solicitors for the HCCC said Dr Cross had over-prescribed drugs for 12 patients between 2000 and 2002.

Reports of the first day of the hearing on February 1,

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were published in Thursday's Sydney Morning Herald and Daily Telegraph.

Among those supplied with painkillers by the GP was a woman for whom he prescribed more than 8200 strong painkillers in the last 19 months of her life.

The 55-year-old woman later died after taking 60 tablets of Panadeine Forte and drinking a bottle of whisky.

There was no suggestion Dr Cross was responsible for the woman's death.

Dr Cross admitted that the woman was addicted to Panadeine Forte and benzodiazepines (a class of drugs that includes Valium).

He said the woman had told him she was a marijuana dealer but he had not considered she might be selling some of the drugs he prescribed.

He also admitted giving her scripts for Panadeine Forte for her husband.

Dr Cross said he genuinely believed the husband would be the recipient of the drugs.

He also admitted prescribing flunitrazepam, which is sold as Rohypnol, without the proper authority, but said he was not aware it had become restricted.

Dr Cross said he was naive and was just trying to help the woman and her husband.

He said he felt great empathy for the woman and tried to get her to see a counsellor because he was trying to keep her alive.

"The plan was to reduce her tablets and get her to see a psychologist for treatment. It was a failure," he said.

Dr Cross denied providing scripts to the woman under false names and also denied providing scripts for her husband knowing they were actually for her.



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