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Big-box Pharmacy Managers Facing Criminal Allegations for Inventory Discrepancies

A warning to all pharmacists working with large-scale commercial retail pharmacies. Recently, there has been a disturbing trend regarding pharmacists employed in certain national chain pharmacies. As a pharmacist, you are charged with the inventory and count of the medications in the pharmacy. As you know, all too often, the scanners used in inventorying medication fail to properly read or scan the bottles, creating the requirement of manually entering in the medication into the pharmacy’s computer system. This can lead to discrepancies in the inventory which can raise red flags with your company’s loss prevention department. All too often, an individual pharmacist is singled out by the company’s loss prevention agents. These same agents will then attempt to blame all inventory discrepancies on a pharmacist.

This is where the nightmare begins! Loss prevention will then claim these discrepancies as diversion or theft by a single pharmacist. The tactics used by loss prevention in convincing a well-intentioned and innocent pharmacist can have catastrophic and life-altering consequences. Know their tactics and know your rights! Loss prevention may attempt to pull a pharmacist’s E-Force to determine if the medication that is missing in the inventory has previously been prescribed to that pharmacists. This tactic is illegal! Access to a person’s E-Force is designated for prescription drug program management only.[1] It is a third-degree felony to obtain an individual’s E-Fore when it is not related to a patient’s care.[2] Furthermore, if loss prevention asks you to pull another employee’s E-Force, you can also be charged with a third-degree felony. Additionally, loss prevention, or their agents, may try to contact your personal doctor directly to inquire to your medications to determine if they are valid. This is also a violation of your right to have your medical history remain confidential under HIPAA.

Armed with this knowledge, loss prevention will then take the pharmacist in question into a back-room and begin to question them for hours regarding the loss of medication. These questions often start very casual and friendly, but can take an ugly turn quickly if the pharmacist does not admit to stealing the medication. Loss prevention will then coerce the well-intentioned pharmacist into singing a written confession of diversion with promises of keeping their job and/or professional license. Do not sign this confession! The police will be called immediately after and the store will press criminal charges.

Furthermore, these actions constitute false-imprisonment by loss-prevention.[3] If a merchant suspects you of theft they are required to detain you in a reasonable time and in a reasonable manner, and immediately contact police after you have been taken into custody.[4] If you find yourself in a similar scenario, inquire as to whether you are free to leave. If you are not, ask whether and when the police have been called. Your next step is to say nothing and to call Chapman Law Group. Failure to do so can lead to the emergency suspension of your professional license and potential criminal charges. Protect your license, protect yourself.

[1] §893.055(7)(b), Florida Statutes.
[2] §893.055(7), Florida Statutes.
[3] §812.015(3)(a), Florida Statutes.
[4] Id.