While a Penticton pharmacist awaits her disciplinary hearing with the College of Pharmacists of B.C., more details have come to light about the events surrounding the 2017 overdose death of a teenager that was employed at the pharmacy.
Joelle Mbamy, owner of Sunrise Pharmacy at 749 Main St., is being investigated by the licensing, public safety and regulation board after an interim order was made on May 23 that prevents her from dispensing any narcotic or controlled drug substance intended for opioid agonist treatment. She is also restricted from compounding any medication and preparing or dispensing any medication for intravenous administration.
The local pharmacist came under fire after unproven allegations of having prepared and dispensed intravenous drug products under “unsanitary conditions.” According to the college, the resulting interim order came into effect on June 7 to protect the public and will remain in place until the investigation is complete. Mbamy has since filed a court petition to have the order quashed, citing in the documents that, aside from the unproven allegations, it was also issued based on the methadone overdose deaths of one of her employees in 2017, which she claims she had no involvement in.
The employee, a 15-year-old Penticton resident, was found unresponsive in his home on the morning of Sept. 19, 2017, and it was later determined he died of acute drug toxicity. According to the BC Coroners Service report, which was completed one day after the interim order was announced, the teen’s heart showed signs of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which is listed as a contribution to his death.
“(The teen) was employed part-time at a local pharmacy and performed general duties such as filling paperwork and cleaning. Following (the teen’s) death it was learned that he likely had access to methadone while working at the pharmacy,” states the report. “(He) was not witnessed to have consumed methadone, but the liquid methadone had been stored in an unlocked cabinet in the medication compounding room, and (he) had been in the room unsupervised for several minutes on Sept. 18, 2017.”
The report says the teen was “an excellent student” who “was well-liked by both adults and peers,” and that he was healthy and did not have a known history of consuming substances.
According to the report the day before his death, the teen worked an after-school shift at the pharmacy but had a family member pick him up around 7 p.m. due to him experiencing what he thought was “food poisoning as a result of something that he had eaten at school.”
The report goes on to state that he was last spoken to at 10:30 p.m. on Sept. 18 and “he indicated that he still felt like he had the flu and would consider attending a clinic in the morning if he continued to not feel well.”
Though the name of the pharmacy is not mentioned in the coroner’s report, court documents filed by Mbamy confirm it was her pharmacy where he was employed. The teen’s death was investigated by RCMP and the College of Pharmacists of B.C. but no charges were laid and is was deemed not suspicious.
“Ms. Mbamy says that the numerous complaints made against her by the college are, at best, spurious in nature, and designed to give the impression that her pharmacy, the Sunrise Pharmacy, is somehow guilty of misconduct when it is not,” said the court petition filed by her legal counsel.
Mbamy’s claim states that the college found a one-litre bottle of methadone, 10mg/ml cherry flavoured solution, in an unlocked cabinet in her pharmacy 14 months after the teen’s death. She reasons this is why it was concluded in the coroner’s report that he likely obtained the methadone from the pharmacy.
In her claim, Mbamy also reasons this order was issued based on the fact that she was previously found guilty of mistreating dogs. In 2018, she plead guilt to an animal cruelty charge and was sentenced to a $1,000 fine, which she has since paid, and a 10-year prohibition from owning animals.
Mbamy has not responded to requests for comments.
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