The wrong side of the law

Can a pharmacist who is afraid of needles be fired for not providing immunisations? Should a pharmacist-in-charge be liable for theft by a pharmacy technician?

The legal risks potentially faced by pharmacists have been highlighted at a recent US pharmacy conference, as reported by Pharmacy Times.

Speaking on pharmacy case law at the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) 2016 Annual Meeting and Exposition, pharmacy legal experts outlined some important cases they said all US pharmacists needed to know.

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.

The technician stole at least 216,630 tablets of Norco (acetaminophen/hydrocodone), ordering six bottles of 500 tablets for delivery, checking in the drugs away from the pharmacist on duty, stashing the bottles in a store room, and secretly moving three bottles at a time to her car.

The board held the pharmacist liable and revoked his license. On appeal, a d

istrict 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.

Stevens v Rite Aid Corp

This case involved a pharmacist who sued banner group Rite Aid after the company fired him because he refused to provide immunizations due to his fear of needles.

The pharmacist argued that Rite Aid violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and New York State Human Rights Law.

When Rite Aid purchased the pharmacy where Christopher Stevens worked, it was announced that all pharmacists had to undergo immunisation training.

Stevens showed Rite Aid letters from his physician that said he had trypanophobia, a fear of needles, and he argued it would be unsafe for him to provide immunizations.

Stevens was fired after he refused to go to training, which led him to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Rite Aid maintained that a fear of needles didn’t count as a disability, so his firing was for a legitimate reason.

However, a jury awarded Stevens with more than $485,000 in back-pay damages, more than $1.2 million in front-pay damages, and $900,000 in non-pecuniary damages.

The court determined that trypanophobia was a neurological impairment and also found that providing immunisations was not in his essential job functions.

Two more cases will be in tomorrow’s newsletter

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