You invest much time, money, and effort to become a practicing pharmacist, pharmacy technician, or intern. As a pharmacy expert, you must undergo rigorous education, training, tests, and difficult professional license application procedures. Your hard work makes suspension or revocation of your professional license or any other disciplinary action from the California Pharmacy Board painful.

The board typically takes disciplinary action when you are found guilty of an offense like theft or fraud involving pharmaceuticals or a drug-related crime within 84 months of your license application. Also, your application will be denied if you are a registered Tier II or III offender or have been convicted of rape, homicide, or grand theft, regardless of the time of conviction. You can contest the proposed pharmacy board’s disciplinary action even with a criminal conviction.

Agencies Regulating California Pharmacists

The California State Board of Pharmacy, also called the “board," regulates practicing pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and interns. The agency enforces regulations provided under the pharmacy statutes to safeguard the public. The licensing agency’s obligation is to discipline licensees engaging in unprofessional behavior or those with criminal sentences. The agency can put you on probation or suspend or revoke your license if you have a criminal conviction.

The goal of the agency is to serve the public through the following:

  • Guarding the welfare, well-being, and protection of Californians with honesty.
  • Champion for the best superior pharmaceutical care.
  • Offer quality and factual info for medicinal care.
  • Advocate for education, quality of life, and health.

The board weighs the need to ensure the safe and operational dispensation of medical drugs that are possibly dangerous and classified as controlled substances. It handles cases of known drug abuse history, current misappropriation, and diversion of hazardous and controlled drugs seriously.

California pharmacy board guidelines and disciplinary processes protect the public. The regulations must be obeyed when taking disciplinary action against a pharmacy expert. Whether the board seeks to suspend or revoke your license, you must be accorded due process and an administrative hearing as a respondent. Disciplinary action can be taken against you when you fail to follow due process or file a late defense.

Therefore, you need a healthcare professional license defense attorney early in the case to prevent an automatic pharmacy or practice license revocation because of avoidable mistakes. An experienced attorney will follow the guidelines and file a defense notice within the timeline to protect your livelihood and reputation.

Criminal Convictions that Prompt Board Discipline

Only offenses “substantially related” to pharmacy professionals' responsibilities, eligibility, and functions can prompt or attract Board discipline. Besides, if you are an applicant, a criminal conviction will trigger the board to deny your application.

Convictions that trigger disciplinary action are for all offenses whose charges have entered judgment. You have pleaded guilty, no contest or a judge has issued a verdict on the case. Whether the offense is eligible for expunction is irrelevant to the decision.

Regarding discipline, part of the measures provided for under the law includes probation, which lasts at least thirty-six months or at most sixty months. The board imposes the maximum probation sentence when you have been found guilty of a crime involving the self-administration of dangerous drugs, devices, or controlled substances. However, the harshest punishment you will face is practice license revocation.

You should know that even when the court sentences you to a diversion program, and you complete it, you will still be subject to board discipline. The board commences disciplinary measures against you when you have lost your right to appeal the verdict. Other times include when the appeals court has affirmed the judgment or a probation order has been issued.

During license renewal, you should report your criminal conviction to the board. You are not required to report a criminal sentence only when you commit an infraction involving alcohol, controlled drugs, and dangerous drugs. Neglecting to note the conviction is deemed the willful making of an untrue statement and will also result in practice license revocation. If you think about not reporting your criminal sentence to the agency, they will find out from the court clerk within ten days of the conviction, putting your license at more risk of suspension.

“Substantially related” refers to a sentence that causes the board to question your capacity to abide by and uphold your qualifications, obligations, and functions as a pharmacy expert.

It does not matter whether your conviction is a misdemeanor or felony; the board reviews a conviction at a time and can deem yours “substantially related” to pharmaceuticals based on the sentence's circumstances. The convictions fit the definition of crimes like fraud, theft, drug crimes, prescription drugs, or DUI.

The criminal convictions are categorized, each class providing the necessary disciplinary action.

Proof of Rehabilitation

When deciding on disciplinary action against you, the board considers whether you have made significant efforts toward rehabilitation. Therefore, you must present evidence to the board with the help of your attorney to show you are reformed from your previous criminal behavior. Proof of rehabilitation is as follows:

  • Evidence of victim restitution or regret of your actions.
  • Proof that you are attending counseling or group counseling sessions.
  • Proof of volunteer job and community commitment.
  • Referral letters from your probation officer and bosses.
  • The duration since your previous conviction.

Board hearings are intended to establish whether allowing you to practice pharmacy puts the public at risk and not to penalize you. This makes it possible to introduce the rehabilitation evidence to the court and instill confidence in the board members that your continued licensure after a conviction is not a threat to the community.

Violations Categories and Legal Penalties

The state's pharmacy statute outlines various offenses that attract disciplinary action against pharmacy professionals and recommends the appropriate punishment. The convictions fall into two categories,as follows:

  • Category II

Convictions classified as category II offenses are punishable by license revocation and 36 months of probation. If you diverted or self-administered controlled drugs, a hazardous drug or device, or abused alcohol, the probationary duration is increased to sixty months. Under this classification, the harshest punishment you will face is license revocation.

Category II punishments are imposed when your violation is deemed severe, involves possible harm to the community, or involves neglect of public safety. Again, the offense must involve disregard for pharmacy regulations about distributing dangerous substances, devices, and controlled substances. Furthermore, criminal sentences for offenses that reflect on your competence, meticulousness, and ethics fall under category two crimes. The violations are:

  1. Breaching marketing or advertising restrictions, including the use of misleading information.
  2. Disregarding injunctions on referral kickbacks or refunds and percentages depending on the lease contract.
  3. A second or subsequent offense relating to recording conditions, inventory regulation conditions, and practice scope requirements.
  4. Breaching protocols for controlled substances’ inventory control, security measures, and secure prescription.
  5. Disregarding compliance conditions, including designated representative.
  6. Supplying or dispensing small-scale dangerous substances or devices.
  7. Incompetence or gross immorality of controlled drugs or substances.
  8. Buying, transferring, or trading dangerous drugs to unauthorized parties.
  • Category Three Offenses

Any conviction under category three offenses attracts possible license revocation, a ninety-day suspension, or a 36 to a 60-month probationary period when the board takes disciplinary action. The agency will impose the most prolonged probation if you self-administered or diverted controlled substances and dangerous devices.

Even under this category, the strictest disciplinary action the board can take is to revoke your sentence. Criminal convictions under this classification are those that cause severe harm or have adverse effects compared to those in Category II. Additionally, offenses involving willful breaches of statutes and regulations on distributing controlled drugs or substances are classified as Category III. The crimes include:

  1. Offenses involving the manufacture, manipulation, or continuation of medication shortages.
  2. Disregard of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act conditions necessary for dangerous substances or devices.
  3. Breaching your obligation to ensure appropriate controlled substances prescription and distribution.
  4. Distribution or supply of drugs devoid of a proper prescription or to unsanctioned parties.
  5. Participating in fraudulent conduct relating to your pharmacy license.
  6. Severe illegal possession or a second or subsequent offense for dangerous drugs, substances, syringes, and other narcotic paraphernalia possession.
  7. Engaging in unlawful means of obtaining controlled medicines and hazardous substances or devices, like forging prescriptions.
  8. Neglecting to maintain proper records or purchase or dispensation of dangerous substances and devices.

Contesting Board Disciplinary Action 

Can I contest or challenge a disciplinary action?

This is the first question that comes to mind when you learn of the board’s accusations and possible disciplinary action. Your profession, livelihood, and reputation are on the line. Thankfully, the law allows you to challenge disciplinary action by negotiating a settlement. However, if both parties do not arrive at a settlement, the matter proceeds to an administrative proceeding.

Once you obtain an “accusation” from the state’s pharmacy board, it is a sign the agency is pursuing board discipline through pharmacy license revocation or suspension. Therefore, you must immediately contact or hire a healthcare license defense legal expert or attorney. Your attorney will swing into action to negotiate with the agency for a possible settlement that will prevent the imposition of any disciplinary action. When negotiations fail, the attorney can petition for an administrative proceeding presided over by an administrative law judge (ALJ) within fifteen days of being notified of the allegations.

The hearing is like a typical criminal or civil court proceeding, involving attorneys from opposing sides and a judge. The board’s attorney and petitioner must present the accusation against you and supporting evidence. Your attorney can then interrogate witnesses and submit exculpatory evidence to challenge the allegations. All this time, the ALJ presides over the case independently and does not align with the pharmacy board. Therefore, when you prepare your defense adequately, you can be sure the judge will determine the claim based on merit.

A win in these administrative hearings is not clearly defined. Your win can be someone else’s devastating loss, depending on the case’s circumstances. One possible win in these cases is having the allegations against you dropped because there is insufficient evidence to back them up.

When deciding on the type of punishment to enact in the case, the ALJ takes into account the following elements:

  • Whether the alleged victim suffered actual harm or injuries because of your offense.
  • The severity of possible hurt that existed due to the crime.
  • Previous professional disciplinary warnings issued by the board.
  • The degree of your accusations.
  • Any criminal conviction that is connected with your practicing license.
  • Whether your actions stemmed from gross negligence, recklessness, or unprofessionalism.
  • Whether you derived any financial gains from the offense.

Your defense attorney will heavily rely on mitigating factors to compel the ALJ to impose a more compassionate disciplinary action or drop the accusations and impose no discipline. The mitigating circumstances you can present for a favorable outcome include the following:

  • Jotted testimony from your colleagues, boss, or supervisor corroborating your competency. The statement must mention when the alleged violation occurred and be signed under penalty of perjury.
  • Letters from your psychologist, therapist, or rehabilitation center prove you have completed your rehabilitation program.
  • Alcohol or drug tests to show you no longer abuse drugs.
  • Physical and psychosomatic evaluation demonstrating you are competent to return to work.
  • A testimony from your parole or supervising officer indicating you complied with all court-imposed instructions or conditions.

Even though you will not escape disciplinary action, citing these mitigating factors can help you obtain a more favorable outcome.

The ALJ listens to all parties to determine whether the supposed conduct leading to the petition by the pharmacy board happened and the most appropriate penalty, depending on the proof submitted.

The judge’s decision is not final. The pharmacy board evaluates the ALJ’s recommendations and decides whether to approve, reject, or modify them.

If you are unhappy with the licensing agency’s decision, your attorney can file an injunction with the California Superior Court.

Lastly, when the court chooses to take disciplinary action, you can always file an appeal for reinstatement.

Becoming a Pharmacy Professional With a Criminal Record

Whether or not you can apply for a pharmacy license with a criminal record hinges on the time of the sentence and the violation you committed.

The rule of thumb is that the licensing agency will not disqualify your application if you have had no criminal convictions on your record for the past seven years.

Furthermore, the board will disqualify you if you have been convicted of a pharmaceutical-related crime in the past seven years. If the conviction is unrelated to pharmaceuticals, the board will approve your practice license application.

Nevertheless, the board will disqualify you, regardless of the time of conviction, if you have a criminal record for severe felonies like homicide, rape, forcible sodomy, and kidnapping. Also, any sex offense requiring you to enlist as a level II or III offender will see your application for the pharmacy license denied. It will help to know that you cannot appeal the licensing board’s decision if the application denial is based on a criminal record.

Roles of Pharmacy Professionals

Practice pharmacists, pharmacy interns, and technicians are critical in the medical profession, although this role is usually overlooked. As a pharmacist, you distribute or dispense prescriptions to patients. You perform the clerical tasks of counting the tablets, labeling prescription bottles, and handling drugs for the patient.

Similarly, you communicate with the prescribing physician or clinician when they mistakenly prescribe the wrong medication. It is up to you to confirm that the prescription is in the correct dosage and formulation. Again, you are responsible for questioning particular brands of medication prescribed by a doctor to a patient.

Also, you must check the medication when they need to refill an existing prescription or obtain a new one. Making errors when issuing drugs can put the patient’s safety at risk due to adverse reactions to certain medications. Therefore, you should understand the harmful effects of every prescription and ways to mitigate the reaction to prevent dangerous reactions.

Moreover, it would help if you counseled patients on their prescriptions' side effects and interactions with food, alcohol, and non-alcoholic beverages. You can even do follow-ups to find out if the patient is interacting with the drugs and, if there are any side effects, advise on how to minimize them.

Furthermore, pharmacists deal with health insurers to resolve coverage denials that could result in patients leaving without medication. Also, they present insurance claims to obtain payments for prescriptions issued.

Lastly, as a pharmacist, you must take part in continuing education to retain a valid license or renew it. You must stay updated with drug approvals, recalls, and medication modifications like dosage, interactions, and warnings. Also, it would be best to stay up-to-date with the ever-changing California pharmacy laws to avoid disciplinary action from the board.

Find a Knowledgeable Medical Care License Defense Attorney Near Me

California’s pharmacy board is not always right when bringing accusations against you and seeking disciplinary action for an alleged violation. Therefore, you have a right to challenge the allegations with the assistance of a healthcare-practicing license defense attorney. At The Legal Guardian, we can discuss the accusations, options, and valid defenses. Therefore, if your pharmacy license is on the line because of an alleged violation in Long Beach, CA, do not hesitate to call us at 866-448-6811 for a free consultation.