The Alaska Board of Pharmacy issued a $3,750 fine last month to a local pharmacy, Scott’s Family Pharmacy, for actions or inactions the pharmacy took related to a prescription transaction that led to a felony drug trial last year.
In that trial, a jury found Homer resident Michelle Hoyt not guilty of fourth- and third-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance, both felonies, and fourth-degree theft.
The Board of Pharmacy action came about after Hoyt filed a complaint with the state against Scott’s.
“That was one of the many things I did to try to prove my innocence and try to figure out why in the world this was happening,” Hoyt said in a phone interview on Monday.
Hoyt also has filed a civil suit against Scott’s Family Pharmacy alleging malpractice. Her lawyer, Andy Pevehouse, said that case is still in litigation.
The charges came about after an incident on May 14, 2019, in which Hoyt picked up a prescription for another person’s Adderall, a controlled substance, at the same time that she picked up her own prescription medicines at Scott’s Family Pharmacy. Hoyt asserted that a Scott’s Family Pharmacy clerk gave her a man’s prescription medicine by mistake. Prosecutors originally alleged that Hoyt tricked the employee into giving her the man’s prescription by asking for it by his name — the third-degree drug misconduct charge, for obtaining possession of a controlled substance “by misrepresentation and deception.”
It was shown at trial that the man’s identification and date of birth were not asked for by the pharmacy clerk.
In a consent agreement by BKO Health LLC, the corporate name of Scott’s Family Pharmacy, the pharmacy agreed that the pharmacy clerk made errors in giving Hoyt the prescriptions. The Board of Pharmacy adopted the consent agreement.
In the agreement, Scott’s Family Pharmacy admitted that:
• Kelsea Scott, then an unlicensed staff member, serviced Hoyt and gave her three separate prescription bottles. One bottle was for another person not present. Scott conducted the transaction within what the Board of Pharmacy determined was the pharmacy area.
• Scott also did not properly verify the identity of Hoyt in accordance with Scott’s Family Pharmacy policies. No one at Scott’s provided counseling on the prescribed medications to Hoyt.
• Scott’s Family Pharmacy also admitted they had contact with Homer Police regarding a report that alleged Hoyt fraudulently picked up a prescription intended for another person and for which Hoyt was ultimately exonerated.
• Scott’s also admitted that as a result of the admitted facts, grounds exist for possible suspension, revocation, or other disciplinary sanctions.
Also as part of the consent agreement, Scott’s Family Pharmacy agreed to pay the fine.
In an emailed statement, Hoyt wrote, “I’m extremely grateful to the State Board of Pharmacy for their investigation of my complaint against Scott’s Family Pharmacy, and for getting Scott’s Family Pharmacy to admit they did not follow proper procedures.”
Hoyt wrote that she felt the punishment was lenient “given how severely their mistakes impacted my life.”
“I had to endure a terrifying and expensive 7-day felony criminal trial to prove my innocence,” she wrote. “I’m still recovering from this ordeal.”
As a result of the charges, Hoyt was let go from her job working in the billing department at South Peninsula Hospital. After the jury found her not guilty five months later, Hoyt got her job back.
“I just wanted to be made whole again,” Hoyt said. “Ryan Smith, the CEO at the hospital, is a true leader. He did all those things and apologized. … They did the right thing. I can’t say how much I appreciate that.”
In a phone interview on Wednesday, Darryl Thompson, the lawyer for Scott’s Family Pharmacy, confirmed the facts of the consent agreement. He said the errors made were Scott’s Family Pharmacy not following its own policies, rather than violating state or federal laws. Those policies would not be a condition of licensing, he said.
“I think what they’re (the Board of Pharmacy) is saying is, if you do, you need to adhere to your own policies,” Thompson said.
Kelsea Scott had fulfilled all the requirements to be a pharmacy tech when she served Hoyt in May 2019, Thompson said, but she had not yet received her certificate. He said Scott was acting as a cashier and not as a pharmacist or tech when she provided the prescriptions. Scott was not working in the dispensary area, but the Board of Pharmacy didn’t make that distinction, he said.
“Obviously the Board of Pharmacy takes a broader perspective,” Thompson said. “… Routinely, cashiers are not pharmacy techs.”
He noted that the state issued an emergency amendment in April to remove the requirement that a cashier or bookkeeper needs a license to work in the pharmacy area. That was later adopted, he said.
Thompson also said that state or federal laws allow someone else to pick up a prescription for another person, such as a family member or friend. It is true that Kelsea Scott did not ask for identification or a date of birth of Hoyt or the man when she picked up the prescriptions, he said.
“That obviously didn’t happen and should have happened,” he said.
On the matter of counseling, that was not verbally offered, Thompson admitted. When a customer signs a form on the key pad, that includes the question of if they want counseling regarding the drugs they’re getting.
Thompson said the decision to prosecute was not that of Scott’s Family Pharmacy, but of the district attorney’s office. Scott’s Family Pharmacy complied with subpoenas to provide testimony.
Homer Police Chief Mark Robl previously told the Homer News that it is routine for the department to send its police report to the prosecution for them to decide if the case should proceed.
Hoyt wrote that she was disappointed with how the police and the prosecution handled her case and hoped there would be be corrections made, including training on proper pharmacy standards.
Thompson said the man whose prescription was given to Hoyt had to file a police report because it was a controlled substance.
“They (the police) could have believed it was a mistake and said ‘no harm, no foul,’” he said.
As a result of the errors, Scott’s Family Pharmacy has made changes in its system, Thompson said. The software the pharmacy uses doesn’t have a prompt in doing a transaction for a controlled substance. At Scott’s suggestion, the software company did an update that includes a mandatory prompt for when a controlled substance is sold. The pharmacy’s new point-of-sale system also includes that prompt.
Regarding the civil suit, Thompson said it’s still in the early days of the lawsuit.
“We’re going to try to be proactive and see if there’s a way to resolve the case,” he said.
Reach Michael Armstrong at firstname.lastname@example.org.