Training to become a pharmacist or a pharmacy technician requires a lot of time, effort, and money, and going through the license application process is also tedious and expensive. Yet, it is all too easy for a complaint to be registered against you with the California State Board of Pharmacy. And any serious complaints could lead to the loss of your license and of your ability to continue your career or your business.
At California License Attorney, we understand the situations that arise and lead to a challenge to your pharmacist or pharmacy technician license, and we also understand the details of the administrative process through which you must wade to successfully counter an allegation.
From the moment you are served official notice of an investigation against you, and every step of the way, our team of expert license attorneys will give you valuable advice and critical representation that can make the difference in the final outcome.
To learn more and to avail yourself of a free, no-obligation consultation, contact us 24/7 at 888-959-0068.
The Valuable Roles of Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians
When you decided to study and prepare for a career in the pharmaceuticals industry, you had more in mind than merely a stable, lucrative income stream. You understood how crucial it is for pharmacy workers to dispense the correct medications, as prescribed by patients' physicians, and to pay close attention to dosage recommendations, drug interaction warnings, side effect warnings, and more.
Pharmacists serve our communities in a variety of settings, from corner drug stores to dispensaries located in hospitals and healthcare clinics. And there is more to being a pharmacist than merely picking and selling prescribed and over the counter drugs to consumers. In a health facility environment, for example, pharmacists are often relied on for advice on which medications might be best for specific conditions/diseases, as well as to prepare intravenous sterile solutions. They also often give out advice to patients on the proper use of drugs, and must do so in non-technical language that everyone will understand.
Pharmacy technicians work as the directly supervised assistants of pharmacists and are relied on by them (and by customers) in a variety of roles. Packaging and processing prescriptions, interpreting technical medical terms, abbreviations, and symbols, and functioning as a representative of the pharmacists when greeting customers all fall within the scope of a pharmacy technician's job.
And whether pharmacist, pharmacy technician, or the owner and/or manager of a pharmacy, your critical services expose you to the constant danger of a career-threatening complaint being registered against you. Many of these allegations will be false, such as when a patient failed to follow clearly written dosage instructions and yet blames the pharmacist. On the other hand, even the best health care professionals can make an honest mistake, and these need not be career-ending.
At California License Attorney, we appreciate the valuable roles filled by pharmacy workers of all varieties and will fight to help you keep your license. We know how to do everything legally possible to avoid or minimize professional disciplinary measures of the California Pharmacy Board. We are here to assist you from the moment you call on us for help.
Disciplinary Guidelines of the California Board of Pharmacy
Like other California license-issuing boards, the California Pharmacy Board has a standard set of Disciplinary Guidelines that the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) handling your administrative hearing (if one becomes necessary) will be expected to consult.
These standards give a great deal of leeway to the ALJ to adjust discipline rendered based on the specific facts of your case. They also set different parameters for different alleged violations. We have a detailed knowledge of the full contents of these disciplinary guidelines and how they are typically applied by most administrative law judges. We also realize that the ALJ's decisions must be justified by him/her to the California Board of Pharmacy, which must review and give final approval to the judge's decisions.
The Pharmacy Law, the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, California Title 16 of the Code of Regulations, Code of Federal Regulations Title 21, the California Business and Professions Code, and various sections of the California Health and Safety Code can all be the basis of allegations leveled against you.
The specific charges will vary greatly, including such things as dispensing the wrong drugs, giving out prescription drugs to those without a valid prescription, dispensing syringes without a license, participating in some form of health insurance fraud, improperly personally using drugs to which you have access, having a drug or alcohol addiction, selling illegal drugs or prescription drugs in an illegal manner, and more. Some of the allegations you may face are technical deviations that would not likely harm anyone, others are very serious indeed. Either way, your license is at risk and you need top-tier license defense to maximize your chances of continuing your pharmaceutical career.
Possible disciplinary measures that may be taken by the California Pharmacy Board include:
- A citation and fine. This is one of the least severe forms of discipline but can still affect your ability to remain employed.
- Public reprimand. In this case, no action is taken against you other than a publicly placed reprimand, but again, employers will not like to see that on your record — so it is worth fighting.
- Interim suspension. This means the board is worried about what actions you might take in the immediate future and suspends your license during the investigation. We can often fight to have interim suspensions overturned. And considering that investigations can take months or even years, an interim suspension can be catastrophic.
- Adoption of stipulation. This means you must take specific actions before getting a license suspension lifted. You might need, for example, to pass a drug test or go through rehab or get a psychological exam done.
- Stay and subsequent probation. Often, it is possible to get a threatened suspension stayed and your license put on "probation" instead. This allows you to continue your work as long as you fulfill the terms of the probation.
- Revocation or suspension. A suspension prevents you from practicing in any pharmacy role for a specified period of time. A revocation simply takes away your license indefinitely. This is the most severe form of discipline. It is almost always a possibility when a complaint is filed against you, but we can usually work to avoid this outcome. But even if your license is already lost, we can help you get it reinstated as soon as possible.
It is important to understand that the California Pharmacy Board exists to protect the public and not pharmacists. They do not have an "axe to grind" against you, but they are not "on your side" either. We are.
The board's standard disciplinary guide is flexible to a point. But license revocation is almost certain if you fail to file a "notice of defense" or to appear at your administrative hearing. And if a suspension is imposed at all, it will be at least 14 days for a pharmacy and at least 30 days for a pharmacist or pharmacy technician. Note that a pharmacy can be held accountable for the actions of its workers, but that the discipline administered to the individual or pharmacy can vary in relative severity based on the facts of the case.
The disciplinary guidebook classifies violations into four basic categories. The maximum possible penalty for each category is license revocation. The minimum for Category I is revocation stayed with 1 year of probation. Category I violations are considered "relatively minor." Category II violations are potentially more harmful and involve more serious deviations from safety standards. The minimum for Category II is 3 years of probation. Category III is concerned with wrongful actions taken in regard to dangerous or illegal drugs. The minimum is a 90-day suspension with 3 to 5 years of probation. Category IV is virtually an automatic revocation. It involves such violations as the sale or possession for sale of controlled substances.
Winning Your Administrative Hearing
We at California License Attorney can work to challenge evidence brought against you even before an administrative hearing. It is often possible to get the case dismissed for lack of evidence either before or at the hearing. In other cases, a favorable plea deal can be negotiated.
The ALJ and board will take many factors into consideration in determining your exact discipline, including the following:
- Whether or not a patient or the general public suffered an actual harm.
- What degree of potential harm existed due to the violation.
- Any previous professional discipline or board-issued warnings that you had received.
- Whether you are currently facing a single or multiple alleged violations.
- The severity of the alleged violations.
- If you have a criminal record relevant to your ability to perform your duties as a pharmacy worker and if you have met the conditions of your probation for any past criminal conviction. How long ago such a conviction took place will also be taken into account.
- Whether negligence, gross negligence, incompetence, or recklessness was demonstrated in the violation.
- Whether or not you had knowledge of a violation committed by another but did not report it, gave approval to it, or actually participated in it.
- Whether or not you benefited financially from the violation, and if so, by how much.
The above-listed factors will guide the ALJ in giving out the minimum, maximum, or an intermediate level form of discipline. But mitigating evidence that we present in your behalf can also affect the final outcome.
Examples of admissible mitigating evidence include:
- Written testimony from your employer, manager, or coworkers that you are a competent pharmacist or pharmacy technician. These statements must be recent, apply to the relevant period of time (during which the incident allegedly occurred), and be signed under penalty of perjury to be valid.
- Letters from a counselor, psychologist, or drug rehab program administrator verifying you have completed rehab or other relevant corrective programs.
- Drug screening or alcohol test results in your favor.
- Physical exams or psychological exams showing you are physically and mentally fit for your pharmacy role.
- Written statements from your parole/probation officer showing you have kept your court-ordered probationary terms.
Such mitigating evidence can help you win stay of revocation and license probation instead of simply losing your professional license. Probationary periods and conditions can vary, and we can fight to make them as short and lenient for you as possible.
Standard probation terms that always apply include: staying out of all legal trouble during license probation, regularly reporting to the board and appearing for regular interviews, giving notice of your probation to your employer, not acting as a supervisor of other pharmacy workers during probation, and being under monitoring and ultimately reimbursing the board for monitoring expenses.
Probation conditions that may apply based on the type of offense or may be avoided due to mitigating evidence include: restrictions on what type of practice you can perform, taking a pharmacist exam, submitting to a mental health or physical health exam, randomized drug test, completion of a Pharmacists Recovery Program, remedial education, being supervised during your pharmacy work, and completion of an ethics course.
California License Attorney has a long track record of helping pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and pharmacies avoid or minimize professional discipline of the California Pharmacy Board. We can help you avoid a hearing or win your hearing if there must be one. Ignoring a complaint and investigation will likely lead to the loss of your license, but we can often save your license and your livelihood if you put your case in our experienced hands.
Contact Us Today for Help
At California License Attorney, we are standing by 24/7/365 to take your call for help. We have deep knowledge of the special rules of evidence and of the inner workings of the administrative process that concerns your pharmacist or pharmacy technician license.
We are dedicated to fighting for the best possible outcome for each and every client we serve, and our track record of success speaks for itself.
For a free consultation on the details of your case, do not hesitate to call us anytime 24/7 at 888-959-0068.