New York Pharmacist Medication Error Defense Lawyer

Pharmacist jobs are demanding, involving filling prescriptions while multitasking. Large chain pharmacies often sacrifice patient safety by forcing their employees to meet unrealistic performance metrics. Unfortunately, trying to fulfill dangerous employer expectations puts pharmacists at risk of making medication errors.

Rather than companies being held accountable, pharmacy employees become obvious targets for allegations of misconduct that can lead to the loss of their professional licenses. It is vital for New York pharmacists facing disciplinary hearings and investigations to obtain effective legal representation to protect their hard-earned licenses and livelihood.

Millions of Prescription Errors in the United States Each Year

Nearly 6,800 prescription medications are available in the United States. Walmart and other similar retailers and chain stores dominate the market when it comes to prescriptions. They account for 70 percent of medications dispensed in the country. CVS captures 25 percent of total prescription revenue and issues more than a billion prescriptions annually. Walgreens has almost 20 percent, followed by Walmart, Kroger, and Rite Aid among retail stores. 

In May 2018, a CBS investigation found that more than 2.3 million prescription drug errors occur every year in pharmacies across the United States. One of the biggest causes for mistakes is the similarity in drug names. Nearly 50 percent of mistakes involve the health care professional writing the incorrect medication, dosage, or instructions. Pharmacists and nurses are typically able to identify between 30 to 70 percent of medication-ordering mistakes.

Each year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) receives over 100,000 reports linked to suspected medication errors. Prescription errors account for roughly seven out of 10 medication errors. However, it is impossible to determine the specific details of mistakes. Not only is there an absence of strict reporting requirements, but many companies offer settlements to victims of medication errors. Once a confidentiality agreement is signed, the mistake is never disclosed to the public.

Medication errors injure an estimated 1.5 million patients each year. Between 7,000 and 9,000 people nationwide die because of them, according to a 2019 study.

Profit-First Approach of Big Pharmacies Gives Rise to Medication Errors

Medication errors typically occur because pharmacists are overworked. They often end up working long shifts without lunch or rest breaks. The pressure to do more in a fast-paced, chaotic setting has increased the likelihood and frequency of medication mix-ups.

Large chains like Walgreens and CVS have been reducing staff and shutting down stores while filling more prescriptions than ever despite safety concerns. A 2020 New York Times report highlights the dangers of understaffed pharmacies. Fatigued pharmacists saddled with heavy workloads expose patients to the risk of prescription errors and jeopardize their own careers.

Over the past decade or so, the job description of the average pharmacist has expanded significantly. Pharmacists are responsible for multitasking on everything from filling prescriptions and checking for drug interactions to answering phones, working registers, and consulting with customers.

Imagine a pharmacist doing all this busy work while having to fill and check hundreds of prescriptions daily to meet unreasonable volume and speed metrics. Pharmacists are heavily evaluated based on their abilities to meet corporate quotas. Companies like CVS track everything from the time taken to fill a prescription to the number of immunizations administered. Because they are pressured to work quickly, pharmacists cannot always catch dispensing errors such as wrong medications or incorrect doses.

When chain pharmacies prioritize quantity over quality, it hurts patient safety and threatens the job security of pharmacists. Pharmacists are often at the receiving end of disciplinary action when a prescription error is reported to the state board. Most investigations focus on pharmacists, not on evaluating their workplace conditions or scrutinizing employer practices.

Protecting a Pharmacist’s Professional License

In New York, pharmacists are licensed and registered by the New York State Board of Regents, the Education Department, and the State Board of Pharmacy. According to the Office of the Professions, 1,290 pharmacist licenses were issued in New York in 2022. The state had a total of 22,182 pharmacists as of January 2023 and 5,410 pharmacies as of March 2022.

To practice legally in the state, pharmacists must continuously keep their licenses in good standing. A criminal conviction or finding of professional misconduct can lead to a loss or suspension of your pharmaceutical license. Depending on the offense, this may be accompanied by other penalties such as fines or even referral for criminal prosecution.

When your license is on the line and your career is in jeopardy, you need to make every effort to protect it. The best way to do that is to consult with an experienced New York professional licensed defense attorney skilled in representing pharmacists in disciplinary proceedings. Brill Legal Group has a solid track record of serving healthcare professionals in all matters related to professional licensing. We do everything we can to make sure you keep your license.

When Is a Pharmacist Subject to Discipline?

Pharmacists licensed in New York who commit professional misconduct are subject to discipline by the Office of Professional Discipline (OPD). The agency has the authority to investigate and prosecute pharmacists.

Pharmacists can be accused of many different types of professional misconduct besides negligent prescriptions. Some common offenses subject to discipline in the state are:

  • Substance abuse
  • Criminal conviction
  • Gross incompetence or negligence
  • Personal use of medications from a pharmacy
  • Failure to maintain proper records
  • Fraudulent practice
  • Practicing while intoxicated

Some findings of professional misconduct can lead to criminal charges. OPD investigations often focus on fraud or controlled substance violations. Pharmacists may be accused of stealing medications from a pharmacy or even be liable for fraud if they enabled someone else to commit fraud.

A pharmacist who has a criminal conviction in any jurisdiction, even one that is not linked to their pharmaceutical practice, risks losing their professional license. Additionally, practicing while under the influence of alcohol or drugs can result in various penalties. Pharmacists who are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction should seek help for substance abuse issues to avoid endangering their livelihoods.

Pharmacists are required to meet a certain standard of care. Human error in the form of negligence can result in many different types of medication errors. A pharmacist may fail to thoroughly check a prescription they are issuing or end up giving incorrect drugs to a patient. Any improper handling of medications or labels can mean the loss of their professional license and other penalties for a pharmacist.

Besides negligence, a wide range of violations can result in professional misconduct allegations. For example, using dishonest advertising, selling medications that have not been approved by the FDA, failing to adequately supervise a pharmacy, employing unlicensed workers, having expired medications in the pharmacy’s drug inventory, or not maintaining proper records can cause a pharmacist to be targeted for investigation.

How is Disciplinary Action Triggered?

Disciplinary action against a New York pharmacist can begin in different ways. Some cases start after routine pharmacy audits and inspections. Others are initiated when a third-party complaint against a pharmacist is filed with a state agency, which will then look into the allegations.

A criminal conviction, even one not linked to pharmaceutical practice, will automatically be reported to the licensing agency and trigger an investigation. No matter the circumstances, the stakes are high. No pharmacist can afford to take a wrong step and risk losing their license.

Pharmacists are required to comply with investigators. However, there is no obligation to agree to an interview with an OPD investigator. If you receive a letter informing you that you are under investigation for professional misconduct, you should contact an experienced defense attorney right away.

How the Disciplinary Process Works for Pharmacists Accused of Misconduct in New York

1.) The Letter: A letter from the OPD signals the start of an investigation into a pharmacist’s professional conduct. It notifies the pharmacist that he or she is under investigation for misconduct. This letter should be taken seriously as it means your license is on the line, and you could end up being unable to work as a pharmacist.

2.) Investigation and Legal Representation: As licensees, pharmacists are obligated to cooperate with investigations. However, a crucial point to note is that you do not have to volunteer information to any agency.

Brill Legal Group recommends that you avoid discussing anything with OPD investigators before speaking to a New York professional license defense attorney. This is because any statements you give to the investigator can potentially damage your case.

Some pharmacists believe they have not engaged in any wrongdoing and that investigators will ultimately realize this and end their probe. Unfortunately, that is not usually the case. Even if the allegations against you are unfounded, make sure to seek legal help immediately if the OPD has contacted you. With your livelihood and future under threat, having a knowledgeable legal team by your side is essential.

3.) After the Investigation: When an OPD investigation concludes, the Investigative Committee will analyze the evidence and determine whether it is substantial enough to proceed with a formal disciplinary hearing. The case will be dismissed if there is a lack of evidence.

If the case moves forward, a prosecutor will review the investigative report and determine whether to begin a formal disciplinary hearing. Sometimes prosecutors may be willing to settle before litigation. The process may result in a consent agreement between the licensed professional and the pharmacy board. A consent order is a document that states the OPD’s findings and the penalties imposed. In less serious cases, the matter may be resolved with informal disciplinary action, such as an OPD-issued Corrective Action Required letter or an Administrative Warning letter.

4.) Disciplinary Hearing: If the matter remains unresolved, then the OPD serves the pharmacist with notice of a disciplinary hearing. The case is tried before a hearing panel made up of three or more members. While the disciplinary hearing is not as formal as a courtroom trial, they share a similar format. The accused individual can testify at the hearing, have legal representation, question witnesses and present evidence.

Once the disciplinary hearing concludes, the panel issues a written report indicating whether the professional was found guilty or not guilty on each charge, as well as recommended penalties. If found guilty, pharmacists have certain rights to appeal the panel’s decision.

5.) Penalties: The State Board of Regents can impose several different penalties on a pharmacist found guilty of professional misconduct. The harshest punishment is license revocation, surrender or annulment. Other potential disciplinary action includes fines, a censure, drug evaluation, training or education requirement, or mandated public service, among others.

Are You a New York Pharmacist at Risk of Losing Your Professional License?

Contact Brill Legal Group Today.

Being accused of professional misconduct is upsetting, especially when you were under pressure to fulfill your employer’s unrealistic expectations. When your future is on the line, you need to do everything you can to protect your professional license. If you are a pharmacist facing allegations of wrongdoing in New York and are in danger of losing your license, contact Brill Legal Group as soon as you learn you are being investigated.

An OPD investigation can easily end with your inability to work as a pharmacist. With so much at stake, having the right lawyer by your side is vital. Our defense attorneys are experienced in providing strategic, effective representation to pharmacists during all stages of disciplinary and professional licensing hearings. We have handled thousands of cases throughout New York over the past decade and work hard to deliver results.

Call us today for a free initial consultation.

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Just when I was getting discouraged and was at my wits end trying to find the right attorney for my case, a family member recommended Mr. Brill. He did not disappoint. Mr. Brill and his team are diligent, very professional, encouraging and honest every step of the way. Highly recommended.

- A.S.