As a pharmacist, you can face serious consequences if your licensing board finds that you have violated the rules or laws that govern your profession. Therefore, having a pharmacist license defense lawyer on your side to defend you in disciplinary proceedings can be critical to protecting your career and your professional reputation. By obtaining legal counsel, you will be better positioned to fight back against the severe sanctions you may face in disciplinary proceedings.
22 Tex. Admin. Code § 281.7 contains an extensive list of grounds that may subject pharmacists to discipline by the Texas State Board of Pharmacy (TSBP). Some of these grounds are more serious than others, and many have the potential to result in suspension or revocation of your license in some circumstances. Here are some scenarios that could endanger your pharmacist’s license.
Improper Handling of Controlled Substances and Dangerous Drugs
Since the main purpose of a pharmacist’s job is to fill prescriptions for medications and provide them to patients, many of the grounds for discipline focus on the improper handling of controlled substances and dangerous drugs. Pharmacists have more widespread access to these substances and drugs than most professionals, which makes the potential for abuse high. Therefore, taking advantage of one’s position to abuse or mishandle controlled substances can lead to severe consequences.
For instance, § 281.7 makes it illegal for pharmacists to do any of the following:
- dispense controlled substances or dangerous drugs to an individual or individuals in quantities, dosages, or for periods which grossly exceed standards of practice, approved labeling of the federal Food and Drug Administration, or the guidelines published in the professional literature;
- dispense controlled substances or dangerous drugs when the pharmacist knows or reasonably should have known that the controlled substances or dangerous drugs are not necessary or required for the patient’s valid medical needs or a valid therapeutic purpose;
- deliver or offer to deliver a prescription drug or device in violation of this Act, the Controlled Substances Act, the Dangerous Drug Act, or rules promulgated pursuant to these Acts;
- acquire or possess or attempt to acquire or possess prescription drugs in violation of this Act, the Controlled Substances Act, the Dangerous Drug Act, or rules adopted pursuant to these Acts;
- distribute prescription drugs or devices to a practitioner or a pharmacy not in the course of professional practice or in violation of this Act, the Controlled Substances Act, Dangerous Drug Act, or rules adopted pursuant to these Acts;
- refuse or fail to keep, maintain or furnish any record, notification or information required by this Act, the Controlled Substances Act, the Dangerous Drug Act, or rules adopted pursuant to these Acts;
- dispense controlled substances or dangerous drugs in a manner not consistent with the public health or welfare;
- fail to provide or provide false or fraudulent information on any application, notification, or other document required under this Act, the Dangerous Drug Act, the Controlled Substances Act, or rules adopted pursuant to those Acts; and
- fail to establish or maintain effective controls against the diversion or loss of controlled substances or dangerous drugs or records of those substances or drugs, or fail to ensure that those substances or drugs are dispensed in compliance with all applicable laws or rules by pharmacists in certain positions.
Conduct Involving Fraud, Deceit, or Misrepresentation
Pharmacists also can face disciplinary action against their licenses for various forms of conduct involving fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation. For example, one ground for discipline against pharmacists is “dispensing a prescription drug pursuant to a forged, altered, or fraudulent prescription.” Pharmacists also may not “mak[e] false or fraudulent claims to third parties for reimbursement for pharmacy services.”
Other prohibited practices by pharmacists include:
- making false or fraudulent claims concerning any drug;
- persistently and flagrantly overcharging for prescription drugs; or
- engaging in conduct that subverts or attempts to subvert any examination or examination process required for a license to practice pharmacy.
Misuse of Prescription Drugs Generally
Other miscellaneous grounds for the discipline of pharmacists largely relate to the handling of prescription drugs. For instance, pharmacists may not sell, purchase, trade, or offer to sell, purchase, or trade misbranded or expired prescription drugs. With some exceptions, pharmacists also may not take any of those actions concerning prescription drug samples or prescription drugs sold for export use only, purchased by a hospital or other health care entity, or donated and supplied at a reduced price to a charitable entity. Pharmacists also may not dispense prescription drugs generally while not acting in the normal course of professional pharmacy practice or refill prescriptions with “prn” refills beyond one year of their date of issuance.
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Aggravating and Mitigating Factors Affecting Sanctions
Available sanctions for pharmacists under § 281.61 include reprimand, probation, restriction of a license, suspension of a license, and revocation of a license. In cases that do not involve criminal convictions, TSBP considers the following aggravating factors under § 281.62 to determine the appropriate sanction for a violation of the rules and laws that govern pharmacists:
- 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;
- pattern of misconduct that serves as a basis of 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 will consider the following mitigating factors in determining the appropriate sanction for a violation:
- 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;
- remoteness of misconduct, when not based on delay attributable to actions by the respondent;
- extent to which respondent cooperated with 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, 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.
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Bertolino LLP: A Law Firm Who Will Stand Up to the TSBP to Defend Your Pharmacist License
When a complaint threatens your ability to earn a living, you should retain a seasoned pharmacist license defense attorney to represent your interests. The sooner you contact us about your disciplinary case, the sooner we can start working on your case. Contact the lawyers of Bertolino LLP today by calling (512) 515-9518 or visiting us online.