A fake pharmacist who allegedly verified nearly 750,000 prescriptions over 10 years1 is receiving a good deal of attention from real pharmacists, as well as the public.

Kim Thien Le worked at 3 Walgreens locations (Fremont, Milpitas, and San Jose) in California, allegedly using the pharmacist license number of a similarly named individual. In addition to filling prescriptions, including more than 100,000 for controlled substances/narcotics, she is accused of counseling patients, administering immunizations and supervising staff, among other pharmacist duties.1

Le once was licensed as a pharmacy technician, but her license expired in 2008. A Walgreens representative told the Los Angeles Times that “Le’s employment ended in October 2017, and since the complaint was filed, the chain had undertaken a re-verification of all of its pharmacists’ licenses nationwide.”2

A routine visit by state pharmacy investigators to the Fremont Walgreens uncovered some controlled substances prescriptions that were dispensed without the required security measures, according to the California Board of Pharmacy complaint

Investigators then looked at Le, who had verified these prescriptions, and the identity theft unraveled.

When confronted, she said, “Me and my son would be very grateful if you could just forget about this. I will pay whatever fine,” adding that she promised she would “not be coming back to work as a pharmacist.”1

The California Board of Pharmacy will determine whether the 3 Walgreens stores will have their pharmacy licenses revoked or suspended. A hearing date has not yet been set.1

Although the complaint was filed in October,1 news of the alleged fake pharmacist recently took over social media in pharmacy groups and elsewhere. Reactions from the public were widely varied.

Comments posted to social media included:

  • On Facebook, Sarah Reed said: "As a cancer patient, this is terrifying!"
  • On Twitter, James Gleason said: "Proof that anyone can put pills into a bottle and slap a label on it."
  • On Facebook: Brandon J. Bethune said: "What does this say about the pharmacist profession as a whole?"

Pharmacists from around the country, including 1 who previously worked for Walgreens, also reacted outside of social media. (Some requested their last names not made public.)
  • Elizabeth, PharmD: “I am appalled, disappointed, and angry. She should go to jail and pay back all the money Walgreens and the [pharmacy benefit managers] are going to lose over this. And so should her boss or whoever was in charge of checking her credentials.”
  • Christina, PharmD: “I think this should be a wakeup call to management that they are placing too much emphasis on skills you don’t need a PharmD for—pushing out meds, etc. Above all, [human resources] needs to be back checking degrees and licenses. This shows that all HRs need to do due diligence in verifying degrees and licensure.”
  • Jennifer Carroll, RPh: “I think the idea that she was able to continue on because she was meeting all of the corporate metrics of scripts per hour, etc, is a good point to be made.”
  • Hannah, PharmD: “This does not surprise me. People lie, that is why we are supposed to have leadership in place to protect the patients. This just goes to show [Walgreens is] still missing the mark with patient care.”
  • M. Scott Newman, PharmD: “The difference between a pharmacist that checks orders for accuracy and never checks for therapeutic appropriateness, and someone who saves a life by realizing that the provider forgot their anticoagulant order upon discharge from having [deep vein thrombosis] and lower ventricular clots is why we just aren’t counters and labelers.”
Elizabeth also concluded: “If the community pharmacist was better utilized not just for dispensing skills, but for counseling, education, and more direct patient care, her fraud would have been more apparent and quickly uncovered. We should use this as professionals to propel our profession forward to move towards the performance and outcomes model that pharmacists have been proven to improve patient care.”


References
  1. Board of Pharmacy, Department of Consumer Affairs, State of California. Case No. 6325. pharmacy.ca.gov/enforcement/accusations/ac176325.pdf. October 11, 2018. Accessed February 5, 2019.
  2. Vives R. Fake Walgreens pharmacist handled over 700,000 prescriptions, state officials say. Los Angeles Times. January 30, 2019. latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-fake-pharmacist-walgreens-bayarea-20190130-story.html.  Accessed February 5, 2019.