State Boards of Pharmacy Wield Control and Power

Pharmacy Times, January 2020, Volume 86, Issue 1

Pharmacists should familiarize themselves with their local governing bodies, which defend public health, safety, and welfare.

Pharmacies and pharmacists operate under laws that they often forget are regulated by state pharmacy boards. These regulatory agencies exercise control and power over the profession’s day-to-day functions, so understanding the construct of the governing laws and regulations is a must.

State legislatures pass laws or statutes that govern the practice of pharmacy, generally referred to as a state Pharmacy Practice Act (PPA). Upon passage by a state legislature and signing into law by the state governor, the law will legally bind the pharmacy profession, including pharmacies, pharmacists, student pharmacists, and auxiliary staff personnel such as pharmacy technicians. A PPA provides the groundwork on which a regulatory agency, usually known as the state board of pharmacy, is established.

Boards of pharmacy are charged with safeguarding standards of public health, safety, and welfare. Some pharmacists mistakenly assume that their board of pharmacy does not give the profession the consideration it deserves. However, remember that boards of pharmacy do not prioritize the financial interests of any given sector of the industry.

Boards of pharmacy are typically made up of practicing pharmacists, along with related health care professionals and members of the public.

State boards of pharmacy often strive for diversification of pharmacy profession members. For example, some states require the board to include chain, hospital, independent, and long-term-care pharmacists to promote a good faith representation of many areas of the pharmacy practice and their varied viewpoints. Some states require appointment of pharmacists from different areas of practice and significant fields within the profession. Alongside the board members, whether professional or public, are staff members, which typically include the executive director, a general counsel, prosecutors, investigators, and support staff. Additionally, some states mandate feedback from special interest groups, such as state pharmacy associations, to participate in oversight functions and assist the board with visibility into the latest trends within the profession.

Many states demand that the board represent major areas of the pharmacy profession, though some have no such requirements. It is no surprise that some professionals from practice areas that are without representation on the boards consider this unfair, arguing that lack of in-depth knowledge of a certain practice area may result in laws and regulations that neither protect the practice area in question nor benefit the general public. For this reason, it should be expected that a board would endeavor to comprise a broad representation of pharmacy backgrounds.

States regulate the criteria for membership, the length of appointees’ tenure, the number of members, and the rules governing nomination and appointment. This framework is typically found in the PPA, which may be revised at the discretion of its state legislature, provided that the governor signs the PPA into law. In many states, board members answer to the governor, who has the sole right to appoint them. Terms are typically set for time of service, and with term limits in some states.

The members of a state board of pharmacy have the ultimate power to regulate the pharmacy profession in a given state. At periodic public meetings, board members examine pharmacy matters affecting both the profession and the public and discuss various topics, including both local matters that may target a single pharmacist or pharmacy entity and broad issues affecting the profession in general or society at large.

Representatives from the profession attend these meetings to have their insights added to the public record. Representatives from state pharmacy associations are almost always present, often accompanied by major stakeholders from a cross section of the pharmacy industry.

State pharmacy boards are also responsible for taking disciplinary action against a pharmacist, pharmacy, or tech accused of breaking a state law or regulation. Examples of matters brought to disciplinary hearings before a pharmacy board include abuse, addiction, diversion, drug theft, and licensing matters. Board members often conduct closed-door meetings in conjunction with state prosecutors, in which settlements may be proposed before a particular case is submitted for adjudication before a hearing officer or the court system.

All told, the functions of a state board of pharmacy are numerous and varied. Pharmacists should familiarize themselves with their pharmacy boards.