The Legal Hazards of Being a Supervising Pharmacist: Page 2 of 2

August 4, 2016
Ann W. Latner, JD

The second case, decided last year, looked at a situation in a community pharmacy where the pharmacist in charge was unaware that over a two-year period his technician had stolen over 216,000 tablets of acetaminophen/hydrocodone (Norco). Although the pharmacy did not sell that medication, the tech would order six bottles of 500 pills each to be delivered on days she was working. She would secretly check in the drugs out of the pharmacist’s sight, stash the bottles in her pockets, destroy the packing invoice, and sneak 3 bottles at a time to her car when the pharmacist was on a break. The tech was eventually caught on surveillance and was found with over 3,000 tablets on her person. The state Board of Pharmacy (in California) filed a disciplinary action against the pharmacist, alleging record keeping and inventory violations based on the actions of the tech. The board found the pharmacist guilty and revoked his license. The pharmacist appealed, but on appeal the court agreed with the board that there is no knowledge requirement for sanctioning a pharmacist for record-keeping violations. In the end, the court affirmed the Board of Pharmacy’s decision that the pharmacist in charge was responsible for the technician’s theft of controlled substances and for violations of laws that govern record keeping and security in the pharmacy even though he had no knowledge of the theft.

The Bottom Line

What both of these cases show is how seriously a supervisory position must be taken. You cannot assume your tech is doing everything right – being a supervisor entails actually supervising. This means looking at the medication orders that have been prepared by your techs before they go to the patient, being aware if your technician seems distracted or impaired, and having oversight of your record keeping and inventory. Ignorance of errors that your tech has made is no excuse when it comes to being a supervising pharmacist.


Ann W. Latner, JD, is a freelance writer and attorney based in New York. She was formerly Director of Periodicals at the American Pharmacists Association.