Becoming a licensed pharmacist in New Jersey has taken a great investment of time, money, and effort on your part. You now have a lucrative career based on helping others. Ironically, though, all it may take is a single allegation of wrongdoing to put all you've worked for into jeopardy. The New Jersey State Board of Pharmacy holds its licensees to high standards of ethical and professional excellence, and it is obligated to act in the best interests of the public. The Board will aggressively investigate complaints, and if they find enough corroborating evidence against you, they have the authority to suspend or revoke your license without even proving conclusively that you did anything wrong.
Fortunately, you have options to protect yourself and your career. Hiring an experienced New Jersey license defense attorney can greatly increase your chances of surviving a disciplinary investigation with your license still intact. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has many years of experience with disciplinary cases like yours, and he and his team will work diligently to help you obtain the best possible outcome for the complaint against you. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.
What Allegations Could Jeopardize Your Pharmacist License in New Jersey?
Pharmacists must adhere to stringent standards and rules when dispensing medications, and they must follow strict protocols to ensure patient safety. Most allegations that could endanger your license involve some violation of these standards or the public trust in general. Common examples include:
- Fraud. Pharmacist fraud can exist in many forms, such as charging too much for drugs, inappropriately substituting medications without doctor permission, billing health care providers for brand-name drugs while only supplying generic versions--the list goes on.
- Incompetence. Patient safety is paramount when it comes to administering medications, and accuracy is key. Examples of pharmacy negligence include giving a patient too much or too little medication, providing an incorrect medicine altogether, or disregarding drug interactions/allergies that could be potentially harmful to the individual.
- Improper record-keeping. Pharmacists must keep highly accurate records regarding medical inventories, dispensing controlled substances, patient information, etc. You can face disciplinary action for keeping sloppy records because it can either cast suspicion on your behavior or compromise legally protected patient information.
- Criminal convictions. Your pharmacist license could also be in danger if you are convicted of a criminal offense, especially ones involving moral turpitude (such as theft, embezzlement, fraud, or a drug offense).
What Is the Disciplinary Process in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, the majority of disciplinary actions against pharmacists start with a formal complaint filed with the State Board of Pharmacy. These complaints can be made by anyone: patients, fellow health professionals, insurance providers, etc. Once a complaint is filed, the disciplinary process goes through the following stages.
Request for Response
The Board will begin by contacting you to notify you of the complaint and request a response from you in writing. Your response can be a deciding factor in whether further steps are taken: if you can provide a convincing explanation with corroborating evidence to refute the complaint, the Board may drop the matter entirely.
If you don't respond (or if the Board is not convinced by your response), the next step is to forward the matter to a Preliminary Evaluation Committee (PEC) to investigate. The PEC appoints an investigator to seek out evidence to substantiate the complaint. This process may include interviews with the complainant and witnesses, document subpoenas, and other research. The PEC may also ask you to answer questions under oath.
If the investigation uncovers enough evidence to warrant disciplinary action, the Board may offer to negotiate a consent order with you in lieu of a formal hearing. This is a legally binding agreement in which you voluntarily submit to the disciplinary actions recommended by the Board. This isn't always the best option, but if disciplinary action is likely, it may be preferable to going through a formal hearing, especially if your attorney can negotiate terms that include a path toward reinstatement of your license.
If no mutual consent order is tendered or accepted, the next step will be a formal hearing held in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). During this process, you have the right to bring a lawyer to this hearing. You will be asked to show cause why your license should not be revoked. After the hearing is finished, the Judge will suggest to the Board what disciplinary action should be taken against you. Depending on the circumstances, this could range from a minor penalty to revoking your license completely.
Why Do I Need a Professional License Defense Attorney?
If your pharmacist license is under investigation in New Jersey, the best way to protect it is by engaging a professional license defense attorney. The Board of Pharmacy takes allegations of wrongdoing seriously, and they can impose discipline based only on a preponderance of the evidence. There's no guaranteed presumption of innocence when it comes to a complaint against your license, so without an attorney to represent your interests, you're coming into the process at a decided disadvantage.
A knowledgeable and experienced lawyer can help you navigate the disciplinary process, ensuring that your rights are protected every step of the way. They will be able to advise you on how best to respond to a complaint and/or investigate if there has been any misconduct. An attorney also serves as an advocate in negotiations and hearings, using their legal expertise to negotiate the most favorable outcome.
You've worked too hard on building your career as a New Jersey pharmacist to have it derailed by a simple misunderstanding or misstep. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team understand how the disciplinary process works and can intervene to minimize the damage to your career. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.