A recent Hearing Tribunal issued its written decision on the merit and orders regarding the conduct of a pharmacist who was a pharmacy licensee during the period of the alleged unprofessional conduct. The Hearing Tribunal found that during a three-and-a-half-month period in 2022, the licensee failed to comply with a condition on the pharmacy licence that prohibited the pharmacy from procuring, compounding, repackaging, or selling any narcotic or controlled substance for resale to any community or institutional pharmacy, or any other professional or provider. During this period, the pharmacy redistributed approximately 170 narcotics and controlled substances from another licensed compounding pharmacy to more than 20 community pharmacies, in breach of the condition.
The Hearing Tribunal found that through the pharmacist’s actions, he failed to fulfill the professional and ethical judgement expected and required of a pharmacy licensee, the integrity of the profession was undermined, and the public’s trust in the profession was decreased. The Hearing Tribunal found the pharmacist’s conduct was unprofessional and as a licensee he had engaged in misconduct.
The Hearing Tribunal also noted that the pharmacist believed his redistribution of drugs complied with the condition, he immediately stopped the redistribution of drugs once discovered and notified by the Alberta College of Pharmacy (ACP), and he accepted responsibility for his conduct. The pharmacist had no previous findings of unprofessional conduct and fully cooperated with the investigation and hearing. He later obtained a Health Canada dealer’s licence for the pharmacy and the condition on the pharmacy licence was lifted.
Even though the pharmacist admitted his responsibility for the allegations and acknowledged that he failed to initially understand and comply with the condition, the Hearing Tribunal ordered the following penalties:
- A reprimand, which the Hearing Tribunal’s written decision shall serve as.
- An order the pharmacy shall be monitored by an ACP field officer for a period of three years. The monitoring shall consist of a field officer conducting two visits of the pharmacy, with the pharmacist responsible for the costs of each visit and any costs associated with complying with any directions issued by the field officer.
- An order that if, within three years from the date of the Hearing Tribunal’s written decision, the complaints director receives a report from a field officer under the above order, or a representative of Health Canada, that identifies a failure of the pharmacy or the pharmacist to comply with any legal or regulatory requirements related to the pharmacy’s provision of narcotics to other pharmacies, then the complaints director may prohibit the pharmacist from serving as a licensee until such time as the reported compliance issues are investigated and fully resolved or the complaints director is satisfied that the reported compliance issues have been corrected.
- An order to provide all regulated members employed at the pharmacy with a copy of the Hearing Tribunal’s decision for a period of three years.
- A payment of $15,000 towards the costs of the investigation and hearing.
Rationale for the Tribunal’s decision, is reflected in its following statements:
A pharmacy licensee has the responsibility and obligation to be knowledgeable of all the regulations that govern the practice of pharmacy. The pharmacy licensee also has the responsibility and obligation to seek clarity if they do not understand the intent and/or the spirit of a particular regulation.
[The pharmacist] displayed a lack of knowledge and awareness of the regulations and exhibited poor judgement by applying his own interpretation, without consultation of the college, of the regulations even though the regulations clearly provide the definition of “sell” which includes the circumstance “to distribute or give away without expectation or hope of compensation or reward.”
Finally, [the pharmacist’s] conduct also undermined the integrity of the profession because his decisions undermined both the intent and spirit of the regulations that are established to protect the public and as a consequence erodes the trust that the public places in the profession.
Licensees – incorporate these lessons into your operation of your pharmacy
- Conditions imposed on a pharmacy licence must be fully understood and complied with. Don’t guess. If there is uncertainty about a condition, seek clarification.
- Don’t let your professional judgement be impaired by assumptions.
- Review the Pharmacy and Drug Act and the Standards for the Operation of Licensed Pharmacies (SOLP) with regard to your responsibilities when operating a pharmacy. Relevant sections and standards can be found in the Hearing Tribunal’s written decision.
- Review and consider your ethical responsibilities outlined in Principles 7 and 10 of the Code of Ethics.
- Complete Parts A and B of the ACP Licensee Education Program (LEP) to learn more about the duties and responsibilities of a licensee and proprietor.