The California Board of Pharmacy regulates over 29,000 registered pharmacists, as well as pharmacy technicians. The board's main mission is to protect the safety and health of California residents through enforcement, licensing, and legislation.
We at the San Diego License Attorney understand how hard you have worked to receive your license. Your license symbolizes your achievement, and it is the source of your livelihood. Just like any other human being, you are prone to making mistakes. These mistakes can make you lose your professional license.
The California Board of Pharmacy takes its responsibility very seriously. It can utilize its powers to revoke or suspend your license. If at any time you feel that your license to practice as a pharmacist or a pharmacy technician in San Diego is threatened, you should reach out to us. We have experienced pharmacy license defense lawyers who are non-judgmental, compassionate, and committed to helping you protect your license.
The Important Roles of Pharmacy Technicians and Pharmacists
You were not just looking for a lucrative income stream when you decided to pursue a career in the pharmaceutical world. As a pharmacy worker, you know how essential it is for you to issue the right medications as per the doctor's prescriptions and pay a keen eye to dose recommendations, drug interactions, and side effects.
You can find pharmacists in almost every corner of our community – from local drug stores to healthcare clinics and large, referral-based hospitals. Pharmacists don't just pick and sell over-the-counter or prescribed medications to customers.
For instance, a pharmacist who works in a clinic is normally relied on to issue advice on which drug is the best fit for certain illnesses or conditions. Such a pharmacist may also be requested to prepare injection solutions. Furthermore, all pharmacists have an overall duty to advise patients on how to use drugs correctly, using a non-technical language for them to understand easily.
Pharmacy technicians assist pharmacists in fulfilling their duties. Pharmacists rely on pharmacy technicians to carry out various tasks, including processing and packaging prescriptions, interpreting medical jargon, and representing the pharmacist when he is not around.
As a pharmacist or pharmacy technician, you may err while discharging these crucial roles. Just one mistake can expose your license to the threat of being revoked or suspended. Some people can register a complaint against you to the California Board of Pharmacy. Most of these complaints are usually based on false allegations. For example, a patient may fail to follow the dosage instructions, which you clearly explained to him, and still blame you. No matter how diligently and professionally you discharge your duties – any person can launch an unfounded allegation against you. Moreover, even the most experienced pharmacists and pharmacy technicians can make honest mistakes; but this should not make them stop pursuing their careers.
The California State Board of Pharmacy
The California State Board of Pharmacy is the principal body that regulates the practice of pharmacy in California. This board was first set up in 1891 as a regulatory agency for the state. In 1971, this board was incorporated into the Department of Consumer Affairs – a part of the executive arm of the Californian government.
This board has 13 members, who can serve for a maximum of eight years. Among the 13 members, seven of them are registered pharmacists, and four of them are members of the general public. The Governor appoints the registered pharmacists, and the Speaker and the Senate Rules Committee appoint the public members.
The board members select the executive officer, who acts as the chair of the board. This executive officer oversees all the board operations and staff.
As highlighted on its official website, the primary functions of the board include:
- Protecting the welfare, safety, and health of California residents with honesty and integrity
- Advocating affordable and high-quality medical care
- Providing sufficient and the best information about pharmaceutical care
- Promoting wellness, education, and the quality of life
For the board to discharge its duties, it handles complaints against any registered pharmacist or pharmacy technician in California. It also takes responsibility if a resident of California experiences an unfavorable outcome due to the decisions of the board members. The board is also in charge of licensing pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. Besides pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, the California State Board of Pharmacy regulates interns in the pharmaceutical industry and drug manufacturers and distributors.
Obtaining a Pharmacy License or a Pharmacy Technician License in California
As a pharmacist or pharmacy technician in California, you have probably gone through a hectic and tedious process while applying for your license. The California Board of Pharmacy requires prospective professionals to take and pass up to three exams before they are considered eligible for a license. They must also show proof of undergoing clinical training or internship. Individuals who would like to become registered pharmacists in California must hold a five-year pharmacy degree from a reputable medical school.
If you believe that you are eligible to practice as a pharmacist or a pharmacy technician, you should fill in a license application form online at the official website of the California State Board of Pharmacy. You may also be required to pay an application fee.
When the board receives your application, it will ascertain whether you are eligible for a license. Note that it isn't a guarantee for you to obtain a professional license after going through this hectic process, even if you have all the academic credentials.
Sometimes, the board can unfairly deny you your professional license. In such a scenario, you should speak to a license defense attorney. This attorney can assist you in filing an appeal to revoke the board’s decision.
Obviously, you would desire to maintain your license after you have obtained it. Sometimes, this may not be possible if you get a criminal conviction or someone launches a complaint to the board against you.
Disciplinary Guidelines of the California State Board of Pharmacy
The California State Board of Pharmacy has a collection of disciplinary guidelines. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) dealing with your case must refer to these guidelines during the hearing. These guidelines give a lot of discretionary power to the ALJ to discipline you, depending on the circumstances and facts of your case. Furthermore, these guidelines enlist the different types of complaints that can be launched against you; and their parameters.
Most license defense attorneys have a comprehensive knowledge of these guidelines, and how the administrative law judges apply them. The California State Board of Pharmacy must also review the judge’s decision, and give the final stamp of approval.
The basis of most allegations made against you is that you violated an essential law in the pharmaceutical industry. For instance, you may have violated the Pharmacy law, the California Health and Safety Code, the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, the California Business and Professions Code, California Title 16 of the Code of Regulations, and Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Here are some of the most common accusations leveled against pharmacists and pharmacy technicians:
- Dispensing incorrect medication
- Issuing prescription medicine to individuals who do not have a valid prescription
- Participating in insurance fraud
- Abuse of drugs
- Having an addiction to drugs or alcohol
- Selling narcotics or prescription drugs illegally
- Criminal convictions and charges
Regardless of the type of charge you are facing, you should know that your license is under threat, and you can easily lose it. Therefore, you must hire a license attorney to help you build an excellent defense strategy.
You should have it in your mind that the primary goal of the California State Board of Pharmacy is to protect the members of the public. Usually, they may seem to be biased against you; but they have no intentions whatsoever to incriminate you falsely. It is up to you to defend yourself properly and prove that you are innocent.
You should expect a revocation order if you fail to show up at the administrative hearing or file a defense notice. Also, the board can hold a pharmacy liable for the negligent acts of its employees, under the rule of vicarious liability.
According to the disciplinary guidelines, there are four categories of violations. The most severe punishment for each group is license revocation. Category I violations are relatively minor, and their minimum penalty is a one-year suspension or probation period. Violations of category II involve extremely serious deviations from California's pharmacy safety standards, and their minimum punishment is a three year probation period. Category III offenses include wrongful actions involving illegal or dangerous drugs. The minimum punishment for category III offenses is a probation period of 3 – 5 years, followed by a 90-day suspension period. Category IV encompasses the most severe crimes, including selling controlled substances. The punishment for category IV violations is a revocation.
Here is a brief analysis of the disciplinary measures the board can take against you if it holds you guilty:
1. Fines and Citations
This is the least severe form of punishment that the California State Board of Pharmacy can inflict. You may be ordered to pay fines of massive amounts of money that make you incur an unnecessary financial burden, as well as sign a written citation to adhere to specific conditions.
2. Public Reprimand
Here, the board will just publicly reprimand you and take no further action against you. Though this punishment may seem to be less severe, it will remain on your professional record for life. Potential employers may shy away from hiring you in the future due to this bad record. This is why you should not accept this punishment and fight against it.
3. Interim Suspension
Immediately a complaint has been launched against you; the board can issue you a temporary suspension order, primarily because it worries that you may tamper with the investigation process. The main goal of an interim suspension is to ensure investigations are conducted effectively, and the inspectors gather all the available evidence against you. Its secondary purpose is to prevent you from engaging in further violation of the law and participating in activities that can endanger the public.
A license defense attorney can help you overturn this interim suspension order. Considering that the investigation process may take a couple of months or several years, the interim suspension order may be detrimental to you.
4. Adoption of Stipulation
The board may suspend your license, and require you to take various steps before it lifts the suspension. For instance, you may need to take a psychological examination, pass some tests, or attend a rehabilitation program.
Your license may not be suspended, but you may be ordered to serve a probation term instead. This means that you will be able to continue with your practice as a pharmacist or a pharmacy technician, though you must adhere to the probation conditions.
Probation is the most common form of punishment that the California Board of Pharmacy utilizes to discipline pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. The period and conditions of probation vary, per the facts and circumstances of your case. Some of these conditions include frequently appearing before the board, exercising your duties under the board’s direct supervision, completing a remedial education program, and submitting to a drug test or physical or mental health examination.
The board may order you to discontinue your practice for a specific period. This period may be a minimum of 30 days for a pharmacy technician or a pharmacist.
The board can issue you an order to stop your practice as a pharmacist or a pharmacy technician for an indefinite period. Revocation is the harshest form of punishment that the California State Board of Pharmacy can impose. You can expect your license to be revoked regardless of the nature of the complaint filed against you, but your defense attorney can help you avoid this punishment.
The Administrative Hearing
Immediately you retain a license defense attorney; he will start challenging the government's evidence right away. This implies that your case may not even reach the administrative hearing stage, and it can be dismissed for insufficient evidence. In some cases, your attorney can enter into a plea bargaining agreement with the government for you to obtain lenient charges.
The Administrative Law Judge and the Board will consider various factors in determining the kind of discipline you should receive. Some of these factors include:
- Whether any person suffered actual harm because of your mistake
- Whether you accrued some financial benefits because of the violation, and if yes, of what value
- What potential damage may be caused by the breach
- Whether you had knowledge that a specific individual was committing a violation, and you failed to report it, approved it, or took part in it
- Any warnings that you received from the board in the past
- If you demonstrated negligence, recklessness, or incompetence while committing the violation
- The number of alleged violations that you are facing
- If you have a prior criminal conviction, whether you fulfilled all the probation conditions related to the offense, and when the conviction happened
- How serious the alleged charges are
The factors listed above will help the administrative law judge to determine whether he should issue you with the minimum, intermediate, or maximum form of punishment. If the board holds you liable, your attorney can present some mitigating evidence that can affect the outcome of your case. Some examples of mitigating evidence that are considered admissible include written testimonials from your coworkers and employers, letters from psychologists, counselors, and rehab administrators to verify that you completed the relevant correctional programs, negative alcohol or drug screening tests, psychological or physical exams to show that you are mentally and physically fit to practice, and a statement from your probation officer to demonstrate that you observed all the court-ordered probation conditions.
Such evidence can convince the board to discipline you with the least severe form of punishment. For instance, you may be told to serve short probation periods with less restrictive conditions.
Despite the persistent efforts of your license defense attorney, the outcome of the administrative hearing may still be unfavorable. In such cases, your attorney can help you file an appeal at California’s superior court to overturn the board’s decision. This appeal will be via a writ of mandamus, and it should be filed within thirty days from when the board issued its final ruling.
Typically, appeals are combined with ex parte applications to stay the board's decision. This means that if the ex parte application is successful, the board will be forced not to implement its decision. For instance, if the board had issued a revocation order on your license, you will continue to practice as you wait for the hearing and final determination of the appeal. Appeals should be filed immediately after the unfavorable board decision to prevent it from being implemented and affecting your career.
Find a San Diego License Defense Attorney Near Me
We at the San Diego License Attorney have the experience, legal knowledge, and commitment to help you fight for your license. Call us today at 619-728-7448 for a free consultation.