We have a lot of experience representing numerous New York licensed pharmacists in all types of government investigations. Pharmacists are obligated to continuously keep their license in good standing in order to successfully practice their profession in the State of New York. If you are found guilty of professional misconduct or get convicted of a criminal offense, your license could get suspended or it could even be revoked. If you are a pharmacist who has learned of an impending audit or investigation, you should call an experienced health care defense attorney who has first hand experience in defending pharmacists in matters related to licensing.
How Does a Misconduct Investigation of a New York Pharmacist Work?
New York pharmacists are subject to professional discipline by the State Department of Education, Office of Professional Discipline (OPD). An investigation for misconduct can be initiated pursuant to complaints against the pharmacist, or on the existence of a criminal conviction. Either way, the stakes are high and no pharmacist can afford to make any critical missteps. During the investigation, the pharmacist will be contacted by a letter sent by an OPD investigator by mail. As a licensee, you are required to comply with any investigations into your practices. You may be required to submit any documents that the investigator requests from you for the purposes of the investigation. Nonetheless, you have no obligation to meet with or speak to the investigator. Our advice is that you refrain from doing so without first consulting your lawyer. Any and all statements you make, no matter how casual, can and likely will be weighed against you and will characteristically be interpreted in a negative light. The investigators are known to also demand records and get statements from witnesses. Before giving up any information at all, you should make it your business to review everything with your attorney.
These misconduct investigations are often intertwined with audits or investigation by other agencies that may suspect fraud, substandard care, controlled substances violations, or other possible infractions. Be aware that whatever statements and/or information you submit or anyone else (like witnesses, for example) offers OPD in the course of a professional misconduct investigation may be used by other agencies as well. For an optimal outcome, find yourself an attorney with expertise in all aspects of healthcare investigations as they specifically relate to licensed pharmacists. The attorneys on our team have handled hundreds of OPD cases at all stages and it’s more than likely that we can help you with your case.
There are some cases in which we can actually convince OPD to end the investigation without any effects. In the event that the investigator finds that there is sufficient evidence of a pharmacist’s misconduct, he or she then creates a report and refers it to the investigative committee. At that stage, a prosecutor will be assigned to your case and we can connect with them directly to resolve your matter.
At times, prosecutors may appear to be willing to settle. We will look over their proposals and advise you as to the possible collateral effects so that you can make an informed decision. There are certain types of admission that may have adverse repercussions such as possible exclusion from Medicare and Medicaid, which can hit most pharmacists pretty hard.
Usually, investigations targeting pharmacists tend to focus on fraud, controlled substances violations, and improper handling of medication and/or labels. A finding of misconduct in any of these offenses that has been committed could potentially result in the loss of the pharmacist’s license, plus additional penalties that can include fines, exclusion from programs, and referral for criminal prosecution. Pharmacists should also be aware that they could be deemed liable for fraud if an investigator finds that they enabled another person to commit fraud. Are you a pharmacist who is concerned about possible allegations of fraud or drug violations? If so, then you should consult our experienced health law attorneys. We can assist you in establishing proactive compliance programs and other effective mechanisms that will minimize the occurrence of violations through prevention, early detection, and effective correction, all without interfering with your day-to-day operations.
Allegations of professional misconduct could also arise from improper advertising, violating anti-kickback statutes, practicing under the influence of alcohol or drugs, negligence in proper record-keeping, and even failure to pay court-ordered child support. Any pharmacist who has been convicted of a crime, even one that is unrelated to their pharmaceutical practice, can also be charged with misconduct and lose his or her license. If you are a pharmacist and you have been charged with any type of crime, be certain that your lawyer is also well versed in health care law and will be equipped to put together a complete defense that takes into account the need to protect your professional license.
An additional area of concern is addiction to alcohol and drug. If this is an issue for you, while your top priority should be getting help to overcome the addiction, it is equally important to do that in a manner that will not jeopardize your license. Talk with your attorney to determine what the best avenue to take to bring any alcohol and controlled substances issues under control.
There are cases in which self-reporting a violation can result in a mitigation of consequences. Before you decide to go that route, you should speak with your healthcare lawyer for guidance as to whether self-reporting in this specific situation will behoove you, and if so, what is the best method for undertaking it. Do not ever volunteer any information to any agency without speaking with your attorneys first.
There are pharmacists who, upon learning that they are being investigated, believe that since, from their perspective, they have done nothing wrong, that the investigators will ultimately come to understand this and end the investigation. Sadly, the chances of this occurring are relatively low. After an investigation has commenced, you are under suspicion and every single irregularity or error will be counted against you. It is for this reason that it is imperative that you retain an expert health care attorney the very moment you discover that you are under investigation. The attorneys on our team will use their experience and knowledge to strategize and come up with the most effective defense on your case.
Apart from the OPD, other investigations that can affect your license can be initiated by one or more agencies, including the Department of Justice, the DEA, the FDA, the Office of Civil Rights, and state and local law enforcement including the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and the Office of Medicaid Inspector General. Our lawyers have successfully represented pharmacists in their interactions with a wide range of investigating and prosecuting agencies. We go hard to protect your license and to obtain the best possible outcomes. Our attorneys are at your disposal. We represent pharmacists at every stage of the investigation process, including appeals, criminal prosecutions, and disciplinary hearings.