When you have owned a pharmacy long enough, pharmacy legal issues are bound to happen to you.
Types of Pharmacy Legal Issues for Pharmacy Owners
Legal troubles can fall from many angles for pharmacy owners. Here’s a short list:
- Employment lawsuits
- Board of Pharmacy actions
- PBM audits
- PBM contracts
- Pharmacist dispensing activities
- Patient prescription fraud
- Landlord issues
- Former employer issues
- Employee theft
Unfortunately, I have experienced many of these issues myself. Going through lawsuits or allegations is never fun, easy, or cheap. I have been everything from a defendant to a plaintiff to an expert witness. Each legal issue is unique. However, I have been able to learn a lot. I have also been fortunate to help many of my fellow pharmacy owners through their experiences with legal troubles.
Legal troubles can come out of nowhere. Several pharmacy owners are going through some tough legal challenges right now. I just finished successfully defending myself in a lawsuit from a former employer. When you get hit, it can be the most stressful time.
Let’s dive into some resources, tools, and best practices if you are ever entangled with legal issues.
**Note: nothing in this article constitutes legal advice**
The Right Lawyer
Just as doctors have specialties, so do lawyers. Some lawyers are experts in pharmacy law and defend against a board of pharmacy, while others know employment law and can help you set up systems long before you have any issues. Getting the right lawyer for the right reason is the most critical component to success.
Here are the recommended steps to hiring the right lawyer for your needs.
- Get Recommendations
- Introductory Meeting
- Get Estimates of Costs
- Pick One (or a team)
If you are anything like me, your instinct might be to withdraw inward when faced with something potentially scary and embarrassing. Don’t tell anyone. Handle everything on the down low. I now know that is the exact opposite of what you should do.
Your network of connections is one of the best ways to get a highly effective recommendation. I am not recommending you shout your legal troubles to the masses. What I do recommend is to reach out to key people. You don’t have to tell them any details. You can simply say you are looking for a recommendation.
One of the best places to get a recommendation for a certain kind of lawyer is from another lawyer. Lean into their knowledge and network of experts to bring you the best legal team you can get. Trust me, the quality of your lawyer matters. I have been on far too many legal calls. The better lawyer wins.
Have An Introductory Meeting
It is critical to meet with any potential lawyers so you can vet them and they can vet you. This meeting is your time to ask a ton of questions. Here are some sample questions:
- Have you ever personally been involved with a case like mine before?
- How many cases have you tried before the board?
- What were the outcomes of those cases?
- What does the worst-case scenario look like?
- What does the best-case scenario look like?
- Do you know of anyone with more experience with the BOP?
Make sure you take your time. You can feel pressured to make a quick decision. No matter how difficult your situation is, you have time to properly vet a lawyer.
Get Estimates of Cost
I would love to say get the best lawyer no matter what. Unfortunately, in the real world, lawyers expect to get paid. Get the best lawyer you can afford. It might be worth stretching yourself as much as possible to get the best you can. When I started my battle against the board of pharmacy and got the projected costs, I had a meltdown. The only way forward was to put all my energy into making as much money in my pharmacy to fund my legal defense. You don’t have to pay your lawyer upfront; many will work with you to create a mutually agreeable payment plan.
Once you have all the possible facts, you will need to engage with a lawyer. Typically, most lawyers are a part of a law firm. This can be advantageous. Law firms usually employ many lawyers with various talents and specialties. They also will typically have different levels of lawyers. Newer, younger lawyers are less expensive than senior lawyers. Expect to pay some retainer amount to have the lawyer begin work on your case.
I get asked weekly for my recommendation for a pharmacy lawyer. Hands down, I always recommend Hunter Jamerson. He has a ton of experience with litigation, audit defense, and even defending against the FDA, FBI, or DEA. If he can’t help you, chances are he knows the perfect recommendation. When it comes to PBM audits, I recommend Chris and Mark over at Pharmacy Compliance Consulting.
Many times a lawyer can be more helpful before you need them. Much like borrowing money from a bank. They want to loan you money when you don’t need it. A lawyer can be 10 times more effective on the prevention side.
Working With Local Law Enforcement
Forming a solid relationship with your local law enforcement is a great idea. Work with them to learn what is happening in your community. Create a safety plan with them in case of a robbery or break-in. If you ever get a fake prescription or otherwise need their help, it is beneficial if you already have a connection with them.
The Board of Pharmacy
If you ever find yourself in trouble with your board of pharmacy, always get a lawyer with experience with the BOP. After my years-long battle with the board of pharmacy, I learned some key lessons.
Board of pharmacy accusations is not like a criminal trial. In many states, the BOP has already deemed you “guilty” by the time they issue an accusation. You don’t get your day in court to defend yourself. You mustn’t approach it like a criminal case, where you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. I wish I had understood this nuance.
Defending yourself with your board of pharmacy becomes a negotiation. In states where BOPs are fully funded by their fines, often all they want is money. In other states, there can be political forces at play that you should try to understand. No matter what, find a lawyer with a lot of experience with your board of pharmacy.
Ways To Protect Yourself
You might find yourself looking for ways to protect your assets. A succession plan is always a great idea when you own a business—everything from a will to setting up the proper business entities. You might consider looking into an irrevocable trust to fully protect your assets.
Most financial and estate planning advisors will not generally recommend an irrevocable trust as it can’t be undone. It can be a very effective tool for protecting your assets from many legal ramifications. If you find yourself in any legal troubles that may put your assets at risk, talk to an estate lawyer about forming an irrevocable trust.
My hope is that you never have to deal with legal troubles of any kind. And my personal history has taught me that you will probably have to deal with legal issues at some point. It will be very stressful. If you need any support or advice, please feel free to contact me. I am happy to help in any way that I can.