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The requirement for registrants’ conduct to be professional extends beyond the pharmacy

December 12, 2018
Lessons Learned: A recent hearing tribunal issued its written decision on the merit and orders regarding the conduct of a pharmacist.

A recent Hearing Tribunal issued its written decision on the merit and orders regarding the conduct of a pharmacist who was found guilty of serious criminal matters, failed to provide proper notice of the criminal matters, and failed to cooperate with the subsequent investigation.

Although the precipitating and proven criminal matters did not occur between the pharmacist and a patient, colleague, or other health care provider, and did not relate to the pharmacist’s practice site, a Hearing Tribunal established that his criminal conduct was also unprofessional conduct. In its decision the Hearing Tribunal affirmed the necessity for pharmacists to act professionally outside of the pharmacy context, provide proper notice of serious criminal matters, and cooperate with ACP investigators.

In this matter, the Tribunal imposed the most significant of penalties: cancellation and an order for the pharmacist to pay full costs of the investigation and hearing.

Rationale for the Tribunal’s decision is reflected in many of its statements, including the following:

This principle [Principle 11(4) of the Code of Ethics] requires that regulated members of the College will promptly declare to appropriate individuals any circumstances that may call into question their fitness to practice or bring the pharmacy profession into disrepute, including…criminal convictions.

It would not make sense for a regulated member of the College to have to report every minor interaction with law enforcement, such as traffic violations for example, to his or her licensee, proprietor and the College.  Serious criminal charges such as those against [the pharmacist] are different and do warrant disclosure so that appropriate safeguards and precautions can be put in place.

The Tribunal accepted Mr. Jardine’s submission that in regulated professions the duty to cooperate with the regulator’s investigation is paramount because cooperation with the regulator is an aspect of governability upon which self-governance depends. 

The Tribunal also considered that pharmacists are regarded as important members of the healthcare team who are both trusted and empowered to see and care for patients, including with advice and treatment to patients, including minors, in confidential settings. It would be incongruous to allow an individual like [the pharmacist], whose proven conduct has been fundamentally inconsistent with pharmacists’ position of trust, to remain a regulated member entitled to practice.

Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians – incorporate these lessons into your approach to being regulated as a pharmacy professional

  1. Understand that review and regulation of your conduct does not necessarily end when you leave the pharmacy. For many aspects of conduct, pharmacy professionals are held to a higher standard than members of the public.
  2. Understand that a failure or refusal to cooperate with a practice visit, inspector, investigator, or field officer may be considered unprofessional conduct or misconduct. See section 1(1)(pp) of the Health Professions Act and sections 1(1)(p) and 21(8) of the Pharmacy and Drug Act.
  3. Review and understand your requirement to provide proper notice of serious matters to “appropriate individuals,” especially if these matters could reasonably call into question your fitness to practise or harm the integrity of the profession. If you are not certain about such matters, DON’T guess or assume. Clarify any uncertainty you might have with ACP or your licensee.

Do not allow your personal circumstances to negatively affect your professional obligations.