Texas Pharmacist License Defense Attorneys
As a licensed Texas Pharmacist, you serve a key role and hold great responsibility. As a pharmacist, you play an essential part in the healthcare system by providing vital medical care to patients, while also safeguarding them and managing prescription related risks.
Your reputation as a pharmacist is often linked to how well you perform these duties and how well you interact with patients, family members, law enforcement, and other healthcare providers. A complaint filed against you with the Texas State Board of Pharmacy can jeopardize your license and threaten your ability to provide much-needed services. Defending against unfounded complaints and managing the impact of legitimate ones can best be achieved with the assistance of an experienced Texas pharmacist license defense attorney.
At McDonald, Mackay, Porter & Weitz, LLP, we understand what you may be facing when a complaint has been filed with the licensing board. We focus on professional license defense and have experience representing pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and pharmacies facing allegations at the Texas State Board of Pharmacy. Oftentimes, there are short deadlines associated with pending allegations and related agency proceedings. Contact us today for a consultation.
Texas State Board of Pharmacy
The Texas State Board of Pharmacy has the responsibility of regulating the operation of pharmacies, the practice of pharmacy, and much of the distribution of prescription drugs in the state of Texas. The Texas State Board of Pharmacy regulates the profession in many ways, but much of its efforts are focused on the investigation of complaints and the performance of routine audits and inspections. The goals of the Board include:
- Establishing and maintaining quality professional standards
- Ensuring practitioners have and retain proper skill levels
- Preventing the diversion and misuse of prescription drugs
- Maintaining and overseeing safe prescription drug distribution
Licensed Pharmacy, Pharmacist, and Technician Disciplinary Issues
In addition to its function of regulating thousands of pharmacies and tens of thousands of licensed pharmacists and techs, the Board is also tasked with disciplining licensees based on various grounds. Actions by the Board can be based on a number of things including criminal behavior, fraud, unprofessional conduct, or any violation of a health or drug-related statute. Actions by the Board vary, but may involve one or more of the following:
- Public reprimand
- Imposition of fines
- Restrictions on a license
- Placing the pharmacy, pharmacist, or tech license on probation with terms and conditions
- Suspending the pharmacy, pharmacist, or tech license
- Revoking the pharmacy, pharmacist, or tech license
Additionally, the Board may also conduct drug diversion investigations leading to disciplinary action and possible referral for criminal charges.
Some of the reasons why the Texas State Pharmacy Board may discipline a pharmacy, pharmacist, or tech include:
- Engaging in unprofessional conduct
- Alcoholism, chemical dependency, or substance abuse
- Fraudulent or deceitful practices
- Negligence in the practice of pharmacy
- Criminal charges, arrests, or convictions
- Violating a pharmacy code, drug related statute, or other health and safety code
It can take a significant amount of time to navigate the Texas pharmacist licensure process. If you have any issues in your past, including mental health concerns or a criminal record, the process may take longer than one might otherwise expect.
When completing the Texas pharmacist or tech licensing application, an applicant is best advised to:
- Be organized. Get your material together before you apply.
- Apply early. If you think you might want to work in Texas, start the process as soon as possible.
- Read the directions carefully. A minor mistake will derail your application for months. Do not think of attempting to mislead the Board or to try to hide information. Answering “no” when you should answer “yes” will lead to very serious issues should the Board discover the inaccuracy.
- Follow-up. The application requires some documents be sent by third parties. Follow-up on people and entities to ensure that documents have been submitted. It is also critical to follow-up with the Board on a regular basis.
- Retain Documents. Keep a copy of your application, material submitted to the Board and all the correspondence between you and the Board.
- If you have a problem, get help. If you have significant issues, you need to get professional legal assistance from someone with licensure experience before the Board. Some of the rules, the process, and just getting prepared, require the time and attention of an attorney who has in-depth knowledge of the system.
If you have questions about your Texas pharmacy, pharmacist, or tech license or the licensure process, you should seek the help of an experienced medical license defense lawyer at McDonald, Mackay, Porter & Weitz, LLP.
Administrative Board and Disciplinary Process
The Texas State Board of Pharmacy has the authority to reprimand, fine, impose conditions of practice, monitor, suspend, or revoke the license of a pharmacy, pharmacist, or pharmacy tech once the Board has determined that they have violated the laws governing the practice of pharmacy. The licensee is entitled to due process and may benefit from having the guidance of an experienced pharmacist license defense lawyer.
Notice Letter from the Board
The investigative process typically starts out with a complaint filed with the Board or due to a Board audit or inspection. A notice letter to the licensee is sent stating that an allegation has been made or concerns have arisen from an audit or inspection. This letter usually explains the basic issues and asks for an expedited response by a specified date. If no response is received by the deadline, the staff can be expected to more aggressively pursue the matter. Responding on time and in a meaningful way is important to show respect for the process and to hopefully set out your side of the case. Unfortunately, the allegations can often be non-specific, which makes drafting a response very difficult. An experienced license defense attorney can sometimes navigate the agency’s system to get a more detailed explanation of the concerns, but many times information will be limited. Ultimately, the response must be carefully drafted to show good faith cooperation, clarify the case to the extent possible, and at the same time avoid creating additional problems.
After the licensee has responded to the initial letter, the case may be dismissed based on lack of evidence to show a violation. If concerns remain after the response to the initial letter, the case will be further investigated. The agency staff will typically ask for records, case-related documents, and may seek an in-person or telephone interview. Deadlines vary, but a licensee can expect that as a practical matter they will have only two to three weeks to provide information. While the investigator can sometimes provide more detail and grant an extension, some licensees tend to say too much when talking to the investigator. Legal counsel from an experienced pharmacist license defense attorney at this stage is recommended. The case materials eventually undergo expert review for possible dismissal or further processing. If the matter is dismissed, the licensee will be notified in writing. If not dismissed, the case is typically set for an Informal Settlement/Show Compliance Conference (ISC).
Informal Settlement / Show Compliance Conference
If there appears to be a violation, the licensee will be notified in writing that an Informal Settlement/Show Compliance Conference (ISC) will be held. Notice can at times be short, but even with mail delays the licensee usually has over a month to prepare. The ISC requires the licensee, with or without counsel, to meet with agency representatives in Austin. Board representatives have an advising attorney to help guide them, and an agency staff attorney to present the allegations and related evidence. After an exchange of information, questions, answers, and discussion, the ISC panel member and senior staff will deliberate and issue a recommendation. The recommendation can be to defer a decision to get more information, refer to the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) for a contested hearing, or resolve the case through an Agreed Order. Most cases are resolved either by an agreed order or dismissal, but an experienced attorney can usually negotiate the best possible language in regard to findings of fact, conclusions of law and the range of possible sanctions.
If the case is not resolved at an earlier stage of the process, it will be transferred to the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH). Discovery is initiated much like in a malpractice suit or other civil litigation to include depositions, interrogatories, requests for production of documents, requests for admissions, and requests for disclosures. While there is the possibility of being fined, and assessed hearing costs, the case is more about whether the licensee violated the standard of care, their ability to continue to practice, and, if so, under what terms and conditions. An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) is assigned and the proceeding is like a bench trial without a jury. Witnesses are called to testify, records are put into evidence, and legal arguments are made. After the hearing, the ALJ will issue a Proposal for Decision (PFD) analyzing the evidence and recommending a decision to the TMB. The parties may exchange additional pleadings advocating their respective positions after receiving the PFD.
The Board will then hold a hearing and counsel for both sides will be allowed short oral argument. The Board either votes to adopt the PFD, adopt a proposal from one of the parties, adopt something different of their own creation, dismiss the case, or appeal some aspect of the PFD to district court. If a disciplinary order is issued, the licensee has a very short time to file a motion for rehearing to exhaust administrative remedies and preserve the right to appeal to district court. If the motion for rehearing is granted, the case is reconsidered by the Board at the PFD presentation level and another appealable decision is rendered. If a motion for rehearing is denied, the licensee must act quickly to timely file an appeal in district court. During the appeal, the licensee usually remains subject to the imposed disciplinary action until the appeal is final.
It is possible to resolve a SOAH case through SOAH mediation rather than going through the contested process. Mediation usually occurs very early in the SOAH process.
Once under a disciplinary order from the Board, the licensee must cooperate with the agency’s Compliance Department. This department has compliance staff to check up on licensees to make sure they are living up to the terms of the order. Probation appearances are typically called for requiring the licensee to appear before a Board panel in Austin on a periodic basis. Additionally, the licensee can also ask for modifications and early termination of the order. These requests are heard and ruled on by ISC panels. Apparent violations of an order can result in an expedited ISC can also lead to SOAH hearings as well. Sometimes the order itself provides for the additional disciplinary action to be imposed if the order is violated.
Get Help From Experienced Texas Pharmacist License Defense Attorneys
Obtaining the right legal representation as early as possible in the investigation and disciplinary process is important to get the best possible outcome. The attorneys at McDonald, Mackay, Porter & Weitz, LLP have experience with the Texas State Board of Pharmacy. If you or your pharmacy are currently under an agency investigation in Texas, we may be able to help.
Contact us today for a consultation.