What Happens to Pharmacists Accused of Diverting Drugs?

From physical pain and stress to a desire for financial gain, there are many reasons why pharmacists divert or misappropriate drugs. Regardless of the reason, if you are a pharmacist who is accused of either of these violations, it can result in disciplinary action against your license by the California State Board of Pharmacy (CBP). In addition, you may face criminal prosecution and malpractice lawsuits. In this post, you’ll learn about the serious impact these accusations can have on your career and find out when to seek help from a professional license defense attorney.

Reasons for Drug Diversion

Recent studies show that 46 percent of pharmacists and 62 percent of all pharmacy students have used a controlled substance without a prescription. When we pair these numbers with pharmacists’ constant access to controlled substances and other medications, it is easy to see why diverting drugs has become a huge problem among pharmacists.

Pharmacists Typically Divert Drugs for Three Reasons

  • Personal use
  • To provide a drug to another user
  • For financial gain

The stressful nature of their job may initially lead a pharmacist to misuse painkillers, only to quickly find themselves addicted. If the pharmacist is impaired on the job, this can lead to prescription errors that result in life-threatening issues for patients. If the error is detected, and especially if it has caused serious harm, it will prompt an investigation by the CBP.

Legal and License Repercussions of Drug Diversion

In legal terms, drug diversion and misappropriation of medications are serious violations of the Business and Professions Code of the California Board of Pharmacy Regulations. Unfortunately, many pharmacists are unsure of what constitutes a violation.

If the pharmacist forges or alters a prescription, gives out medication without a prescription, creates false prescription forms or copies a doctor’s prescription forms in order to write prescriptions illegally, they can be charged with a felony or misdemeanor and may be fined or imprisoned.

In addition, if a pharmacist sells, dispenses, or compounds drugs while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they can be charged with a misdemeanor. Additionally, if a staff member under the oversight of a pharmacist performs any of these actions, the pharmacist may be held responsible, depending on the surrounding circumstances.

New Regulations for California Pharmacists

To protect themselves from CBP investigations, all pharmacists must be aware of new regulations adopted by the board in 2018 to help pharmacists detect drug loss and reduce the likelihood of controlled substance misuse. It is crucial that you adhere to these regulations to protect yourself from board investigation.

Under the new Title 16 regulation section 1715.65, every three months pharmacists must physically count all Schedule II controlled substances and compare their inventory with the amounts of drugs coming into and leaving the pharmacy. As they complete this process, pharmacists must create a written report that details any discrepancies and identifies possible causes.

In addition, pharmacists must notify the Board of Pharmacy of any discrepancies they notice within 30 days. If the discrepancies were caused by theft, diversion, or self-use, it must be reported within 14 days. Records must be kept for three years.

When to Contact a Professional License Defense Lawyer

Whether you are under investigation by the CBP for controlled substance abuse or have recently been fired for drug diversion, working with a license attorney is crucial to retaining your license. Scott J. Harris has successfully represented California pharmacists to help them keep their licenses and reputations intact. If you are experiencing an issue with drug diversion, our experienced team will fight for your rights and ensure that you are treated fairly by the board.

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation at (323) 894-1095.

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This blog is meant to be informational. It is not meant to be all-encompassing legal advice. If you are facing a situation involving your professional license, seek counsel from a licensed attorney.