5 Court Cases Involving Pharmacists

MARCH 05, 2016
Meghan Ross, Senior Associate Editor
Should a pharmacist-in-charge be held liable for a technician’s theft? Can a pharmacist who is afraid of needles be fired for not providing immunizations?

These were some of the legal questions posed during a session on pharmacy case law at the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) 2016 Annual Meeting and Exposition.

Roger Morris, RPh, JD, of Quarles & Brady LLP, and William J. Stilling, BS, Pharm, MS, JD, of Parsons Behle & Latimer, provided an overview of the kind of legal cases pharmacists have been involved in both as the plaintiffs and the defendants over the past year or so.

Here are 5 recent legal cases pharmacists should know.

1. Sternberg v. California State Board of Pharmacy

After a technician was found to have stolen controlled substances, the California Board of Pharmacy sought to hold the pharmacist-in-charge liable, even though the pharmacist was unaware of the theft.

When Stilling mentioned how much the tech had stolen—at least 216,630 tablets of Norco—APhA attendees erupted in chatter.

“With your reaction, if you were on the jury, you would’ve already decided,” Stilling said.

Over the course of a few years, the tech would order 6 bottles of 500 tablets for delivery and then check in the drugs away from the pharmacist on duty, stash the bottles in a store room, and secretly move 3 bottles at a time to her car.

The board held the pharmacist liable and revoked his license, a district court affirmed the board’s decision, and the pharmacist appealed. However, the court affirmed the board’s decision that the pharmacist was responsible for the tech’s theft and for violations of laws that govern record keeping and security in the pharmacy, despite the fact that the pharmacist was unaware of the theft.

The court argued that the pharmacist could have restricted access to who orders controlled substances in order to prevent the thefts. He also could have randomly checked containers being checked in, or he could have checked the invoices.