Pharmacists should not go up against their regulator alone
A pharmacist lawyer is experienced in representing clients before the Ontario College of Pharmacists (“OCP”), the regulator for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in Ontario. The OCP:
- determines who will receive a certificate to practice as a pharmacist or pharmacy technician
- handle complaints against pharmacists and pharmacy technicians
Your College does not work for you. In fact, the OCP can:
- deny your application for a certificate to practice or
- suspend, revoke or place terms, conditions, or limitations on your certificate to practice
If you plan to apply to the College or have received notice of complaint (i.e. are allegations of professional misconduct) it is important that you have representation to protect your rights. The legal services at Unified LLP will ensure that you achieve the best outcome possible in your specific case.
Our team of experienced pharmacist lawyers can assist with:
- Advising pharmacy professionals on compliance with relevant legislation and standards
- Responding to complaints and investigations at the College of Pharmacists
- Representing pharmacy professionals at the Fitness to Practise Committee
- Defending pharmacists and pharmacy professionals in hearings before the College’s Discipline Committee
- Advocating for pharmacy professionals to resolve matters through the College’s complaint resolution process
- Representing pharmacy professionals in appeals before the Divisional Court of Ontario
Applying for a Certificate to Practice at the CPO requires attention to detail and an understanding of the nuances specific to the pharmacy profession and its regulator.
The College of Pharmacists offers certificates for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians; there are several pathways to registration depending on:
- An applicant’s educational background and credentials
- An applicant’s previous licenses (i.e. licensed pharmacist in another Canadian jurisdiction)
For both certificates, it is mandatory that applicants meet the following requirements:
- Educational credentials in the field
- Completion of the Jurisprudence Examination
- Completion of the Practice-based assessment
- Completion of the Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada (PEBC) Qualifying Examination
Applications are reviewed by the Registrar who will:
- Issue a certificate if all requirements are met or
- Refer the application to the Registration Committee for review if not all requirements are met
Our office can help you prepare this information and offer legal advice on concerns you may have. If you are planning to apply for a certificate from the OCP, reach out today.
The College of Pharmacists of Ontario receives complaints from:
- members of the public
- clients of pharmacy professionals
- employers of pharmacy professionals
- other pharmacy professionals
Employers, facility operators and all regulated health professionals – including fellow members of the College -are required to file a complaint, if during their practice they have obtained reasonable grounds for suspicion of sexual abuse of a patient, professional misconduct, incapacity and incompetence.
Once a written complaint is submitted to the College:
- A file is opened, and additional details or documentation may be requested
- The member is issued a Notice of Complaint (NOC) advising them of the complaint along with a copy of the complaint
- The member has an opportunity to file a written response to the complaint
- The complaint is investigated, and all findings are submitted and reviewed by the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (ICRC)
The ICRC then issues a decision which may result in a variety of consequences, including:
- Taking no further action
- Issuing a caution to the member
- Requiring the member to complete an education or remediation program
- Referring the member to the Fitness to Practise Committee for health inquiries
- Referring the member to the Discipline Committee for allegations of misconduct or incompetence
- Taking other action consistent with the Regulated Health Professions Act (RHPA)
These outcomes can have very serious financial and personal impacts on members. If you have received a complaint from the OCP, it’s critical that you reach out to experienced pharmacist defence lawyers to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process.
Should the ICRC classify a complaint as “high risk,” it may be escalated to the Discipline Committee.
Prior to advancing to a Discipline Committee hearing, a pre-hearing might take place. A pre-hearing offers a chance for both the College and the member involved to informally present their cases.
Based on our experience, a pre-hearing at a college can serve to:
- Reduce allegations against a member
- Reduce penalties being sought
- Identify important legal issues before trial
In the Discipline Committee, a trial-like process may occur, during which witnesses may be summoned and evidence presented.
Possible outcomes from the Discipline Committee proceedings can encompass:
- Revocation of a certificate
- Suspension of a certificate
- Imposing terms, conditions, and limitations on the member’s certificate
- Orders for the member to pay some or all of the costs of a trial
These are grave outcomes; if your issues has or may be referred to the Discipline Committee, please contact a pharmacist lawyer at Unified LLP today.
Fitness to Practise Committee
The Fitness to Practise Committee is a dedicated body addressing situations where a member’s behavior could be influenced by a persistent physical or mental health issue.
From our experience, directing a case to the Fitness to Practise Committee can provide several advantages to members, due to:
- Complaints are typically resolved in a more private setting
- The process is meant to ensure the health of the member
The Fitness to Practise Committee examines the case and might convene a hearing to decide if a member is incapacitated, as defined in the Code, and what, if any, terms, conditions, or limitations ought to be applied to the registrant’s certificate of registration.
Nevertheless, it’s rare for members to be directed to Fitness to Practise Committees without legal counsel. Skillful and thorough representation is required to lay out the evidence that screening committees, such as the ICRC, need to review before considering a Fitness to Practise referral. If you’re facing a complaint, we encourage you to get in touch with us immediately.
Decisions of the:
- ICRC, and
- Registration Committee
may be appealed to the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board (“HPARB”).
Decisions of the:
- Discipline Committee, and
- Fitness to Practise Committee,
can be appealed to the Ontario Divisional Court.
With self-represented individuals often having difficulty winning appeal, it is almost always in your best interest to retain experienced counsel. Reach out to the leading pharmacist lawyers at Unified LLP to ensure you have the best chance of obtaining a positive outcome.
Pharmacist Lawyer FAQ
What are the possible outcomes of disciplinary action?
The outcomes can range from a formal reprimand, mandatory continuing education, fines, restrictions on practice, suspension of the license, to revocation of the license to practice pharmacy in Ontario.
Why would a pharmacist or pharmacy technician face disciplinary action from the OCP?
Disciplinary action may be initiated for various reasons, including, but not limited to, professional misconduct, incompetence, incapacity, criminal convictions related to the profession, ethical breaches, or failure to comply with the regulations and standards of practice.
What should I do if I receive a notice of a complaint or investigation from the OCP?
- Do not ignore the notice: Respond promptly to any communication from the OCP.
- Read the notice carefully: Understand the nature of the complaint or investigation.
- Gather relevant documents: Start collecting any documents that may be relevant to the case.
- Seek legal advice: Contact a lawyer who specializes in pharmacy law or professional regulation to get advice and representation.
How can a pharmacist lawyer help me?
A pharmacist lawyer can help you navigate the disciplinary process, represent you in dealings with the OCP, provide legal advice tailored to your situation, prepare and submit your response to the allegations, represent you at hearings, and advocate on your behalf to achieve the best possible outcome.
Can I continue to practice while under investigation?
In most cases, you can continue to practice unless the OCP has imposed an interim suspension or restrictions on your practice pending the outcome of the investigation. However, the specifics depend on the nature of the allegations and the decision of the OCP.
What are the consequences of not responding to the OCP or failing to comply with disciplinary measures?
Failing to respond or comply can result in further disciplinary action, including increased fines, suspension, or revocation of your license. It may also negatively impact the outcome of your case and your ability to practice pharmacy in the future.
How long does the disciplinary process take?
The duration of the disciplinary process can vary significantly depending on the complexity of the case, the availability of the parties involved, and the OCP’s caseload. It can range from a few months to several years.
Is it possible to have my license reinstated after revocation?
Under certain circumstances, it may be possible to apply for reinstatement after a period of time. This usually involves demonstrating rehabilitation, compliance with any previous orders, and the ability to practice pharmacy safely and ethically. The process is complex and often requires legal assistance.