You have completed your education and earned your professional license to work as a pharmacist in Texas. However, a complaint against you now has the potential to threaten your career. You have too much at stake to try and handle a complaint and potential disciplinary action on your own. Instead, call an experienced pharmacist license defense lawyer to assist you in protecting your rights and your reputation. By getting legal representation, you can also better understand the types of sanctions you may face in disciplinary proceedings before the Texas State Board of Pharmacy (TSBP).
Understanding TSBP Jurisdiction
TSBP has regulatory authority over not only pharmacists but also pharmacies, pharmacist interns, and pharmacy technicians licensed in Texas. As a result, TSBP receives and investigates complaints against these licensed professionals and determines whether disciplinary action is necessary. TSBP only has jurisdiction to discipline pharmacists who have violated a Texas pharmacy rule or law or Texas drug laws. However, TSBP does not represent individual complainants and does not seek legal claims, restitution or monetary damages on behalf of individuals.
On the other hand, TSBP has no jurisdiction to address complaints concerning customer service, rude behavior, or pricing or billing disputes. If TSBP receives a complaint that does not fall within its jurisdiction, it may dismiss it without further action. Alternatively, TSBP may refer the complaint to another, more appropriate agency or entity for consideration.
Resolution of Complaints by TSBP
TSBP refers all complaints within its jurisdiction to an investigator, who may contact the complaining party to gather additional information. Most complaints are resolved via verbal or written warnings. However, some complaints merit disciplinary action against licensees, resulting in various forms of discipline.
Disciplinary Proceedings by TSBP Against Licensees
Licensees have the right to be represented by counsel throughout any disciplinary proceedings. In addition, TSBP typically will schedule an informal settlement conference at which the licensee can appear to discuss issues related to the complaint. In some circumstances, the complainant may also appear at that conference.
The licensee has a right to present evidence on their behalf and show compliance with the law. Then, a TSBP panel, consisting of Board staff and two Board members, will propose a recommendation to resolve the case, which could include dismissal, a warning, or a disciplinary sanction. If the panel recommends a sanction and the licensee agrees with the recommendation, they will sign a proposed Agreed Board Order (ABO) for TSBP to consider at its next regularly scheduled Board meeting for approval.
If the licensee does not accept the panel’s recommendation, TSBP refers the case to the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) for a contested administrative hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ). Following the hearing, the ALJ will prepare a proposal for decision (PFD) containing findings of fact, conclusions of law, and a proposed disciplinary sanction. TSBP will consider the PFD and ultimately decide the case. Once TSBP has taken final action against a licensee, the licensee has the right to appeal that action to the state courts.
Potential Sanctions in TSBP Disciplinary Proceedings
TSBP can issue various sanctions against licensees in disciplinary proceedings, including the following:
- Public reprimands or censures
- License suspensions
- License revocations
- Monetary fines
TSBP may consider the following aggravating factors under 22 Tex. Admin. Code §281.62 in determining the appropriate sanctions in disciplinary proceedings:
- extent and gravity of personal, economic, or public damage or harm;
- vulnerability of the patient(s);
- willful or reckless conduct, or as a result of a knowingly made professional omission, as opposed to negligent conduct;
- a pattern of misconduct that serves as a basis for discipline;
- prior disciplinary action(s);
- attempted concealment of the conduct, which serves as a basis for disciplinary action under the Act; and
- violation of a board order.
TSBP also may consider the following mitigating circumstances:
- an isolated incident that serves as a basis for disciplinary action;
- remorse for conduct;
- interim implementation of remedial measures to correct or mitigate harm from the conduct, which serves as a basis for disciplinary action under the Act;
- the remoteness of misconduct, when not based on delay attributable to actions by the respondent;
- the extent to which the respondent cooperated with the board investigation;
- treatment and/or monitoring of an impairment;
- self-reported and voluntary admissions of the conduct which serves as a basis for disciplinary action under section 565.001(a)(4) and (7) of the Act; and
- if acting as pharmacist-in-charge, the respondent did not personally engage, either directly or indirectly, in the conduct that serves as the basis for disciplinary action; did not permit or encourage, either by professional oversight or extreme negligence, the conduct that serves as the basis for disciplinary action; promptly reported the conduct to the board or other state or federal regulatory authorities or law enforcement upon identifying the conduct that serves as the basis for disciplinary action; and took all reasonable steps to mitigate or remediate the conduct that serves as the basis for disciplinary action.
22 Tex. Admin. Code §281.64 outlines the disciplinary sanctions that apply when a pharmacist is convicted of or subject to deferred adjudication community supervisions or deferred dispositions for certain criminal offenses. As a result, TSPB follows these very specific guidelines in assessing sanctions for pharmacists who commit crimes.
Likewise, 22 Tex. Admin. Code §281.65 provides for a schedule of administrative sanctions or monetary penalties that apply to different forms of violations of the rules or laws that govern pharmacists. TSBP may assess administrative penalties instead of or in addition to other sanctions in disciplinary proceedings. Administrative penalties in this section typically are not less than $250 but may range as high as $5,000.
Count on Bertolino LLP, to Defend Your Pharmacist License from Disciplinary Action
When a complaint threatens your ability to earn a living, you need a seasoned pharmacist license defense attorney on your side. We will defend you against these attacks on the credentials you have worked so hard to earn. Get in touch with the lawyers of Bertolino LLP today by calling (512) 515-9518 or visiting us online.