Pharmacist Incorrectly Prescribes ‘Abortion Agent’ to Pregnant Woman, Investigation Finds


A Dublin pharmacist falsely dispensed pregnancy-terminating drugs to a pregnant woman who had suffered multiple miscarriages, an investigation into his conduct has found.

Donal O’Donovan, who worked as a substitute pharmacist at Corrigan Pharmacy, Malahide Road in Clontarf, Dublin 3, accepted the facts of the case and did not dispute the “seriousness” of the allegations.

A fitness to practice hearing by the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI) began on Thursday. It took place virtually because of the pandemic.

The statutory investigation learned that the woman, called Patient A, attended the Corrigan pharmacy on June 10, 2018 for a prescription for aspirin and cyclogest, a progesterone drug.

Patient A (34) had just found out that she was pregnant from multiple miscarriages and her consultant Karen Flood advised her to start taking the drug as soon as possible to minimize the risk of another.

However, Mr O’Donovan said he misread the prescription and instead distributed cytotec, which is used to treat stomach ulcers and can be unlicensed as an abortifacient agent.

Patient A took the medication as prescribed for two days. She and her partner discovered a warning on the drug on the second day, which stated that those taking the drug should not use heavy machinery.

She returned to the pharmacy to ask if she had received the correct medication.

Supervising pharmacist Eamon Fitzgerald, who was not at work when he was handed over, confirmed that the wrong medication had been dispensed.

He advised Patient A to go to the emergency room. She went to Rotunda Hospital, where she spoke with a midwife and her consultant, Dr Flood, with whom she then had regular check-ups.

In her statement, read by Hugh McDowell, counsel for the Registrar, Patient A said: “I was devastated. It was horrible. I was of the opinion that if I continued to take it. . . I would have lost the baby.

Patient A then gave birth to a healthy baby.

Three allegations were made against Mr. O’Donovan: the provision of drugs other than as prescribed and in a manner that was not clinically appropriate; failure to counsel the patient; and failure to adequately review the prescription.

‘Red flag’

In her expert testimony, Helena Buchanan, pharmacist, said that prescribing cytotec for a woman of this age is a “red flag”.

She said the incident reaches the threshold of seriousness required by law because it is “not clinically appropriate” to give cytotec to a woman of childbearing age.

She added that the three allegations taken together, and separately, “meet the criteria” for poor job performance.

In his statement, Mr. O’Donovan said he was “devastated” by the error.

“It’s a distribution error on my part. I am extremely disappointed with myself. I regret this mistake and I am sorry, ”he said.

His lawyer, Helen Callanan SC, has confirmed that the allegations are admitted and constitute poor professional performance, as described in the law.

However, she said her client had “respectfully” asked the committee to consider dealing with the matter by way of recognizance.

The PSI Malpractice Committee has stepped down to consider its position.

The hearing will resume on Friday morning.

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