Federal, state, and local laws guide what pharmacists can and cannot do to serve their patients. Navigating these requirements is not always easy and a violation can result in serious penalties. In addition to penalties from the body that oversees a pharmacist’s professional license, the Office of the Professions in New York, criminal charges are possible if the government believes the pharmacist violated federal regulations.
The government has taken increased interest in reviewing any collaborative efforts made between medical professionals. The feds explain that they are working to better ensure these health care professionals are motivated by what is best for the patient, not by their own financial gain.
Although a noble cause, the reality can mean these efforts stifle collaborations that could help patients.
Are pharmacists allowed to collaborate with other medical professionals?
In many cases the answer is yes. One example is the Collaborative Drug Therapy Management program. This program allows physicians and qualifying pharmacists to work together to develop a medication plan for their patients.
In other cases the answer is no. Prime examples involve allegations the pharmacist is receiving compensation in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS) or Stark law.
In a recent example of how these relationships can result in a federal investigation, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York announced the indictment of a pharmacist for AKS violations. The pharmacist helped process prescriptions for a pharmacy that operated in Florida. The feds claim the pharmacist was doing more than just helping the pharmacy. Instead, they argue he was working to conceal over $30 million in false claims. The prosecution states it has evidence to support allegations the pharmacist received over $650,000 in kickbacks in exchange for his work with the Florida pharmacy.
What does this mean?
This means the pharmacist is likely negotiating with the government. The negotiations could lead to a settlement or the pharmacist could choose a more proactive approach to defend himself against the allegations. The choice will depend on the details of the allegations.
Pharmacists in this type of situation are wise to consider the possible penalties, as outlined above, and act to protect their interests. This can include seeking legal counsel to help understand the situation and begin working on a legal strategy to deal with the investigation and any potential charges.
Attorney John Rivas is responsible for this communication