Lawyer explains why Windsor pharmacist charged with opioid trafficking still has license

The case of a Windsor pharmacist accused of being at the centre of a drug ring came up Tuesday in a Newmarket, Ont. courtroom.

Last December, York Regional Police arrested and charged John Gerges with three counts of possession for the purpose of trafficking and one count of possession of a forged document.

His arrest came after years of professional misconduct — but he still has his license.

The Ontario College of Pharmacists (OCP) lists a number of violations Gerges faced, dating back to 2015 — for dispensing too many tablets to patients, failing to maintain accurate records and not upholding the standards of the profession.

Gerges was also disciplined for bribing patients not to report his behaviour.

Submitted by Marianne Keriakos

While none of the aforementioned violations are criminal, his recent alleged violations are.

The December incident saw police seize more than $500,000 worth of opioids, a firearm and more than $220,000 in cash.

Gerges registered with the OCP in 2011, and still holds a license — but he cannot be anywhere in or near a pharmacy.

A lawyer who works with pharmacists said the OCP's primary mandate is to protect the public.

"It all depends on what happened at the panel or at the hearing. What was the evidence against the pharmacist? What were the replies? What was his defence?" said Marianne Keriakos, principal counsel at MKLAW.

"There are many steps that come into play prior to a decision being made. Some steps, we are privy to as the public, and some steps we're not," she said.

There are more than 11,000 pharmacists practising in Ontario — but for one to pick up a rap sheet like this is rare.

He will be tried. He has not been convicted as of yet. These are charges right now, so we're all waiting to see what happens. - Marianne Keriakos

"Many were shocked when they heard this news," Keriakos added. "He will be tried. He has not been convicted as of yet. These are charges right now, so we're all waiting to see what happens."

The OCP said Gerges will have to reapply for his license once it expires. At that point, the college will decide whether to renew it.

"Generally speaking, if an investigation results in a referral of allegations to the College's Discipline Committee, and a panel of the committee finds a registrant guilty of professional misconduct or incompetence, their certificate of registration can be suspended or revoked," the OCP said in an email to CBC News.

If people want to learn about any violations their own pharmacist may have faced, that information is available publicly on the Ontario College of Pharmacists' website.