Former Edmonton pharmacist who experimented on patients has lawsuit against lab company dismissed

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A former Edmonton pharmacist barred from practice after “experimenting” on his patients has had his lawsuit against a local laboratory company tossed.

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On Dec. 3, Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Master Lucille Birkett dismissed a 2018 lawsuit from Dr. Pierre Rizk, which accused DynaLife staff of “slandering” him in front of his patients.

Birkett found Rizk had not done enough to advance the lawsuit in the past three years and dismissed it with an order that he pay a portion of DynaLife’s legal costs.

The lawsuit was an early step in a process that ended with Rizk being banned from practicing as a pharmacist.

The Alberta College of Pharmacy cancelled Rizk’s registration in February, calling him a “danger to the public” whose “frightening” conduct was a “black mark” on the profession.

A college tribunal found Rizk guilty of four charges under the Health Professions Act, which included a total of 30 allegations. In a written decision, tribunal chairman Brad Willsey said the college has never seen “a pattern of unprofessional conduct comparable to Dr. Rizk’s.”

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The college found that Rizk prescribed untested and unapproved “cocktails” of drugs to patients — including those with life-threatening ailments. He failed or refused to cooperate with other members of the patients’ treatment team, “(believing) that his qualifications were somehow superior to all others including his patients’ physicians.”

In one case, Rizk simultaneously prescribed a patient five different medications for weight loss — three of which were not indicated for such use by Health Canada. He consistently upped the dosages without consulting the patient’s care team.

Rizk’s actions exposed the patient to cardiac risks and blurred vision, which may have indicated neurological side effects, the hearing found.

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When confronted about the allegations, Rizk misled college investigators and accused them of lying, incompetence and being unable to read. He lied about communicating with the patient’s primary health care providers, and in at least one case provided investigators audio of a conversation he had secretly edited.

“He seemed to be more interested in experimenting on his patients for his own gratification and this no doubt influenced his decisions not to confer with his patients’ physicians,” Willsey wrote. “When questioned about his approach Dr. Rizk … responded instead by impugning the qualifications of the people raising concerns and disparaging them.”

Willsey called Rizk “a maverick whose only goal was to prescribe drugs,” who isolated his patients and lacked the clinical skills to manage side effects.

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Rizk’s activities came to an end in 2019 when the college suspended his practice permit following complaints from three separate health-care professionals. He did not participate in the hearing against him and did respond to an email seeking comment.

‘That weird pharmacist’

Rizk’s unsuccessful lawsuit reveals some of how the complaints came about.

Rizk, who also uses the first name Peter, earned his licence to practice pharmacy in Alberta in 2013. He was eventually authorized to prescribe medication — a power granted to Alberta pharmacists in 2007 — and to administer drugs by injection.

By 2016, he owned a pharmacy in Canora called Supreme Health Drug Therapy Management Clinic and Pharmacy. The now-defunct clinic’s website advertised a variety of “new,” “more effective” and “unique” treatments for smoking cessation, weight loss, diabetes, chronic pain, problem gambling and Ehlers-Danlos syndromes.

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Rizk filed a statement of claim against DynaLife on April 6, 2018, alleging that between November 2016 and December 2017, patients sent to DynaLife told him that lab staff “were throwing derogatory and slanderous” comments about his qualifications.

Rizk claimed that DynaLife staff criticized his methods and referred to him as “that weird pharmacist.” As a result, patients grew “suspicious” and began to seek treatment elsewhere.

Rizk claimed more than $273,000 in compensation, saying he lost a “big portion” of his income.

In a statement of defence, DynaLife denied wrongdoing and claimed that Rizk’s lawsuit was motivated by a May 2017 complaint DynaLife lodged with the college of pharmacy “over the plaintiff’s interactions with the defendant’s employees.”

None of the allegations in the statements of claim or defence were tested in court.

In addition to being barred from practice, Rizk was ordered to pay the the costs of the college’s investigation, totalling nearly $250,000. He was also assessed a fine of $50,000.

In an earlier disciplinary case concluded in January 2018, Risk was ordered to take remedial training and pay $10,000 after admitting to “an ongoing pattern of disrespectful conduct towards other health-care professionals.”

jwakefield@postmedia.com

twitter.com/jonnywakefield

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