As many pharmacists are aware, the Professional Recovery Network (PRN) is a peer assistance program designed to aid licensees seeking treatment and other assistance with problems related to alcohol and substance abuse as well as certain mental illnesses. In this role PRN can play a valuable part in helping troubled pharmacists receive the counseling
In the past year the Texas State Board of Pharmacy has started attempting to strictly enforce their recent amendments to the Board’s administrative rules related to punishment for criminal offenses. These rules prescribe certain standard disciplinary sanctions for a wide-ranging list of specific offenses. Pharmacists with either a criminal record or a pending criminal…
Recently, the Texas State Board of Pharmacy has been engaging in a far-reaching investigatory sweep aimed at identifying unlicensed pharmacy technicians and pharmacy technician trainees. Pharmacists in the state of Texas need to be aware of these actions and any pharmacists ensnared by the Texas State Board of Pharmacy should contact an experienced professional licensing…
Within the last two weeks my firm has signed on as clients two pharmacists who have encountered first-hand the aggressive tactics used by investigators at the Texas State Board of Pharmacy. This is something I feel all pharmacists and pharmacy technicians need to be aware of so they do not inadvertently damage themselves or…
Texas State Board of Pharmacy Overreaches Statutory Mandate Regarding Deferred Adjudications/Community Supervision:
I am currently serving as the defense attorney in several cases before the Texas State Board of Pharmacy that involve clients who are presently on deferred adjudication/community supervision for drug related offenses. In all of these cases the Board has taken the position that their Rules mandate the outright revocation of the license of any pharmacist or pharmacist tech who is on community supervision or probation for a felony drug related offense regardless of the circumstances or any other factor. This is outrageous and a clear contravention of their statutory mandate.
All administrative licensing agencies are creatures of statute and accordingly must derive their authority to regulate from law passed by the state Legislature. The Texas Pharmacy Act sets forth the public mandate of the Texas State Board of Pharmacy in § 551.002 of the Texas Occupations Code. This Sections states that it is the purpose of the Pharmacy Act and the Pharmacy Board “to regulate in the public interest the practice of pharmacy in this state as a professional practice…” in such a way that will “promote, preserve, and protect the public health, safety, and welfare.” Tex. Occ. Code § 551.002. Try as it might, the Board must regulate and discipline pharmacists while remaining within the confines of this public mandate.
In defiance of § 551.002, the Board has, within the past three years, passed and frequently amended Title 22 § 281.64 of the Texas Administrative Code in such a way as to make it impossible for any pharmacist or pharmacist tech to retain their license if they are also placed on deferred adjudication. For example, under Rule 218.64 any pharmacist or pharmacist tech who has been convicted of or is currently on deferred adjudication or deferred disposition for a felony involving either 1) mere possession or 2) the manufacture, delivery, or possession with intent to deliver, fraud, or theft of drugs is automatically subject to the revocation or denial of their license. This is without regard to the individual’s culpability, rehabilitation, age at the time of offense, or current fitness to serve as a licensed pharmacist or pharmacist tech. In many situations the pharmacist is not even deemed eligible for licensure until 20 years has passed since the date of disposition.
This Rule is in clear conflict with the Board’s statutory mandate. That mandate requires the Board to regulate “in the public interest” and in such a way that will “promote, preserve, and protect the public health, safety, and welfare.” Tex. Occ. Code § 551.002. Licensure revocation based merely in the bare fact of being on community supervision or probation for a drug-related offense satisfies neither of these standards. This Rule takes no account of the pharmacist or pharmacist tech’s extent of involvement in the criminal offense, whether they were even aware a criminal offense was being committed, or whether their participation was minimal or expansive. No account is taken of the licensee’s subsequent rehabilitation, their youthfulness at the time of the offense, or their present and future value to the community. The only thing that matters is whether or not twenty years have passed since the date of disposition.
Keep in mind that under Chapter 53 of the Texas Occupations Code licensing agencies such as the Pharmacy Board are required to take into account a set of specified mitigating factors, many of which are listed above, when taking a disciplinary action against a licensee who has actually been convicted of the same offense. Arguably on this ground alone, the Pharmacy Board’s Rule 281.64 is ultra vires (A Latin phrase crucial to administrative law which translates as “beyond the powers”) and hence void.
Last week I resolved three cases involving pleas of guilty or no contest to drug / alcohol related offenses and the subsequent investigations and prosecutions by the individual Client’s respective State licensing Board(s):
- The Texas Optometry Board
- The Texas State Board of Pharmacy
- The Texas Medical Board
In each case, although the Board did not have jurisdiction to discipline for the criminal status in-and-of-itself, each agency found a way to link the conduct (the actions behind the commission of the criminal offense) to the Client’s occupational practice and attempt to resolve the matter through a reasonable agreed order.
Neither the Texas Pharmacy Act nor the Texas Optometry Act afforded jurisdiction to the agency to discipline the license holder for the court ordered felony deferred adjudication probation(s). However, public scrutiny being what it is, each Board simply stated that the conduct was egregious and unbecoming of a licensee. Moreover, the Board’s mission was to protect the public and each agency felt this was something the public should know about.
Authorized under Chapter 564 of the Pharmacy Act, the Professional Recovery Network (PRN) offers a means for chemically dependent and/or mentally ill pharmacists and pharmacy students to confidentially enter a recovery program with the goal of integrating them back into professional practice. Founded by the Texas Pharmacy Association, PRN provides an incentive for pharmacist’s suffering from mental illness or chemical dependency to commit to early treatment and thereby avoid additional harm to the public and themselves.
A person who has who has knowledge of an act or omission by a pharmacist that could provide grounds for discipline under Section 565.001(a)(4) or (7) of the Pharmacy Act- mental illness and intemperate use of drugs or alcohol respectively- may report the license holder to the PRN. In addition to such reports by concerned colleagues and family members, pharmacists and students are encouraged to self-report to PRN. The Pharmacy Board may also refer the professional to PRN in lieu of a disciplinary proceeding. Once PRN receives a report they will contact the pharmacist, if it was not a self-report, and refer them to a mental health evaluator. After meeting the mental health evaluator, the pharmacist will enter into a Recovery Support Agreement with the PRN committing themselves to treatment and recovery. The Agreement will outline the proposed treatment program and include specific recommendations made by the evaluator. By entering into the Support Agreement, the pharmacist or student will also consent to maintaining contact with the PRN Staff and an assigned mentor, providing written quarterly reports, and, if appropriate, undergoing random drug screens. The pharmacist’s mentor, who is either a pharmacist with a long history of sobriety or extensive experience in a twelve-step program, is there to support, advise, and advocate for the professional throughout treatment.
A combination of increased competition from large chain brick-and-mortar pharmacies, mail-order refills, and the rise of the internet as a medium for both legal and illegal activity have driven many unsuspecting pharmacists into the dangerous world of “internet pharmacy.” Since at least 1999, various federal agencies led by the Drug Enforcement Agency and the FDA have combined efforts with state law enforcement and state licensing boards to crackdown on internet pharmacies. The result has been the revocation of professional licenses, stiff fines, and long prison sentences. Many of the pharmacists victimized by this legal dragnet have been severely prosecuted simply because they failed to exercise enough caution when entering the minefield of internet pharmacy.
The target of these law enforcement and regulatory efforts follows a typical pattern of organization and prescription/dispensing process. Oftentimes pharmacists and physicians will be approached by a “facilitator”, which may be in the form of a corporation or other entity who are seeking licensed medical personnel to participate. Fees are often paid on a per prescription basis and can be supplemented with generous handling fees for the pharmacists and consulting fees for the doctors. Such facilitators will point to doctors and pharmacists who have already signed on to give their business plan a deeper air of legitimacy and better induce the medical professional(s) to join.
Once the internet pharmacy contracts the necessary professionals, the prescription and dispensing of controlled substances begins. The patient, who may or may not be legitimate, first tries to order a drug online and is then asked to fill out a preliminary questionnaire which will be viewed by a physician. This doctor, who usually never sees the patient and often lives in a different state, reviews the questionnaire and prescribes the requested medication. The prescription is then transmitted to the pharmacist, who can be in yet another state, who fills it and ships it to the patient. Unfortunately, this process, especially the absence of a proper examination and diagnosis, violates most States’ regulatory rules and exposes all participants to administrative and criminal action.