You've spent years and thousands of hours training to become a pharmacist. You've worked hard through six to eight years of school, grueling licensing exams, clinical training, and sometimes even residency. Since obtaining your license, you've spent even more time building your practice, continuing your education, and building professional relationships with your patients and colleagues. It can be a blow if someone files a complaint against you with your State Board of Pharmacy. Serious allegations can put your license to practice and your career on the line.
However, you do have options to defend yourself. This page will explain how the pharmacy board investigation and disciplinary process works, the potential consequences, and how the skilled Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm can help you, no matter where you live.
Common Triggers for Pharmacy Board Investigations
Each state entrusts the licensing, education, training, and regulation to a State Board of Pharmacy. As part of these responsibilities, your state board also established professional standards of practice and ethics that all pharmacists must follow. To ensure pharmacists maintain these high standards, each board will also investigate allegations that a pharmacist violated professional standards.
A complaint to your State Board of Pharmacy can come from your co-workers, colleagues, patients, pharmacies, hospitals, or clinics. Some of the most common complaints that can result in a board investigation include:
- Substance or alcohol abuse,
- Sexual abuse or harassment involving patients, co-workers, or colleagues,
- Failing to maintain the confidentiality and privacy of patients,
- Fraud, including insurance fraud,
- Failure to keep adequate records and inventory control, particularly over controlled substances,
- An arrest or a criminal conviction or failure to report an arrest or conviction, and
- Inappropriately or negligently dispensing medication, particularly narcotics.
Pharmacy Board Investigations and the Disciplinary Process
While each state board follows its own specific procedures, most investigations follow the same basic process with a complaint, investigation, inquiry, consent decree, formal complaint and hearing, and appeal. Your state board will use a “clear and convincing evidence” standard to determine whether the allegations have merit. This is a lower standard than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard used in criminal trials and means that the board believes it's highly probable the allegations are true.
- Complaint: The process will begin with a complaint to the pharmacy board that you have engaged in misconduct. The board will review the complaint to see if the allegations violate your professional standards.
- Investigation: After reviewing the complaint, if the board decides to investigate, they will notify you in writing and may ask for a response or answers to written interrogatories. They may also ask for documents related to the allegations. If the pharmacy board believes the complaint has no merit, they will dismiss it.
- Inquiry: If your written responses don't provide enough information to resolve the complaint, the pharmacy board may also hold an inquiry or informal hearing to ask you questions in person.
- Consent Decree: If the pharmacy board believes that disciplinary action is needed, they may first try to negotiate a consent decree with you and your attorney. Sometimes, this may be the most efficient way to resolve a complaint.
- Formal Complaint and Hearing: If you disagree with the board's decision and don't wish to enter a consent decree, you can proceed to a formal hearing. At this point, the pharmacy board can enter a formal complaint against you with the state, and the matter will be heard by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The ALJ will rule on the complaint and decide on a sanction after hearing all the evidence.
- Appeal: If you disagree with the ALJ decision, you will have a limited period to appeal to a court. However, the court will not rehear the entire proceeding; rather, the court will only review the ALJ decision for errors of fact and law.
Common Penalties from Pharmacy Board Discipline
Your state pharmacy board and the ALJ will have a wide range of possible sanctions to choose from in a disciplinary matter. The most serious of these is revoking your license to practice and ending your career as a pharmacist. Some other possible sanctions include:
- Suspending your license,
- Requiring that you undergo counseling or alcohol or substance abuse treatment,
- Requiring that you attend continuing pharmacy education classes to fill gaps in knowledge,
- Limiting you to working with supervision or prohibiting you from dispensing certain medications,
- Fines and restitution,
- Requiring that you attend sexual harassment or professionalism classes, and
- Issuing a public or private reprimand.
Why You Need a Lawyer for a Pharmacy Board Investigation
When you first receive notice of a complaint from the pharmacy board, you may be tempted to dismiss it as a misunderstanding. Maybe you can even clear up the issue by telling the board your story. While this may be the case sometimes, anything you say to the board, in writing or in person, can be used against you in a disciplinary action or before the Administrative Law Judge. You need to be careful, and you should consult attorney Joesph D. Lento and his experienced Licensing Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm before you give a statement, respond to a complaint, or agree to a consent decree. Remember, your license to practice as a chiropractor may be on the line. But even if you think the allegation is minor, a finding against you by the board can harm your professional reputation and career, especially if the findings are public.
How We Can Help You
If you're facing an investigation or disciplinary process from your state licensing board, you need an experienced attorney to protect your rights and career. The skilled Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm can help. They've been defending licensed professionals across the country for years. Give them a call today at 888-535-3686, or contact them online to schedule your consultation.