Doctor found guilty by inquiry over high number of benzo prescriptions

A doctor, who prescribed benzodiazepines to more than a quarter of the patients in his practice, has been found guilty of poor professional performance.

The national rate of prescribing the highly addictive drugs is 4%, a Medical Council inquiry has heard.

Dr David Murphy of Curraheen, Co Cork, admitted to four of the five allegations brought against him at a fitness-to-practise inquiry.

The inquiry heard that Dr Murphy told a local pharmacist he would have feared for his own safety if he had refused to prescribe the sedative drugs to patients at his clinic in Cathedral Rd, Gurranabraher, Cork City.

The inquiry also heard a neighbour of the clinic complained that patients were openly selling prescriptions nearby.

Dr Murphy’s barrister Shane Murphy said the clinic closed in 2012 and his client had given an undertaking not to return to private practice. Dr Murphy is now working for the Department of Social Protection, examining applicants for medical assistance. He is also engaged as a forensic examiner for the Garda sexual assaults unit in Cork.

Mr Murphy said his client is 66 and intends to occupy his current post until he retires in four years. He said Dr Murphy is willing to give an undertaking never to prescribe medication again.

Dr Murphy was found guilty of poor professional performance for prescribing drugs in quantities and/or strengths which were inappropriate; for failing to refer one or more of the patients to a specialist substance misuse practitioner or drug treatment centre; for failing to take any or adequate history prior to or during the treatment of one or more patients; and for failing to maintain adequate medical records in relation to one or more of his patients.

Barrister Tom Hogan, on behalf of the chief executive of the Medical Council, said that the Medical Council had been made aware of concerns about Dr Murphy by Patrick Lehane, a pharmacist at Unicare, Hollyhill, who noticed that his prescribing of benzodiazepines and opioids was high.

A woman complained in a letter that Dr Murphy’s patients were openly selling prescriptions in the garden, which she said was very frightening for old people.

Shane Murphy, counsel, said treating Dr Murphy’s particular cohort of patients was an extremely stressful and isolating experience.

He added that there was no suggestion of dishonourable or dishonest conduct and nothing in the evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that individuals suffered harm.

The fitness-to-practise committee’s report will now be forwarded to the board of the Medical Council which will decide what sanction, if any, Dr Murphy should face.


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