Responding to an Inquiry and Investigation
If you received an inquiry from the Board, this generally means a complaint and potentially supporting evidence have been submitted to the Board. In addition, the Board staff may initiate staff-opened cases where the staff has received information from various sources. Upon receipt of the information, the staff will review the information and determine whether a case should be opened.
Often, your first contact may be from an investigator for the Pharmacy Board seeking an interview or visiting the pharmacy. In some instances, especially when controlled substances are involved, the Board’s investigator may also be accompanied by an SBI agent, which is a good indication you may need to retain counsel.
In other cases, the Board may send an initial letter to the pharmacist or owner requesting a response to the allegations. You are required to fully cooperate with the Board in connection with any inquiry the Pharmacy Board makes.
In drafting a response to an inquiry, it is important for you to include all information and documentation necessary to fairly and fully respond to the allegations. However, it is equally important for you to include only the pertinent information and documentation. We help our clients make these judgments and determinations from an objective standpoint and with knowledge of and experience with the process in defending matters before the Pharmacy Board. We also regularly work with pharmacists that have substance abuse or mental health issues, including working with the North Carolina Pharmacist Recovery Network (NC PRN).
In exceptional cases, the Board may issue an order summarily suspending a pharmacist’s license. This extraordinary step is only authorized if the public health, safety, or welfare requires such drastic action. In the past, the Pharmacy Board has taken such summary action if, for example, a pharmacist is charged or convicted of a felony related to the practice of pharmacy. Upon service of such an order, the licensee must immediately cease the practice of pharmacy. The Board is then supposed to promptly give notice of a formal hearing. The suspension will remain in effect pending a final decision after the formal hearing. We have worked with the Pharmacy Board to avoid or resolve such drastic measures against pharmacist clients, when feasible.
After completing its investigation, the Board may close the case without taking further action or may hold an informal conference between a member of the Board, its investigative staff, counsel and the pharmacist or pharmacy owner. The primary purpose of the conference is for the Board’s staff and counsel to summarize the evidence, allow the pharmacist or owner to present evidence in defense and attempt to resolve the complaint without a formal public hearing before the full Board. At these conferences, a Board member in consultation with counsel and staff may direct one or more of the following dispositions:
(1) Submit to the Board a recommendation to dismiss with no action;
(2) Submit to the Board a recommendation to resolve the matter by consent; or
(3) Scheduling, with appropriate notice, for a formal contested case hearing.
At the informal conference, the Board member often offers the pharmacist or owner a resolution of the case, which is followed by a proposed consent order. The pharmacist or owner must agree to all matters in the consent order and then the Pharmacy Board must approve the consent order at its next regular meeting.
We help our clients evaluate and determine whether they should accept a proposed consent order, including often negotiating certain terms. The Board has more flexibility regarding disciplinary actions in negotiating and entering into consent orders than it does after formal hearings. This flexibility is one reason we attempt, whenever possible, to reach a consent order and avoid a formal hearing.