Prescription drug fraud is a high-profile problem in the United States. Most coverage of this problem tends to focus on consumers who attempt to get drugs without a valid prescription, or on physicians who prescribe drugs too liberally. What happens if a pharmacist steals drugs?

Drug diversion by a medical professional is the act of diverting prescription drugs to any use for which those drugs were not lawfully prescribed. Medical professionals, such as pharmacists, nurses, physicians or paramedics, face a multifaceted series of consequences for drug diversion.

Federal criminal charges

Drug diversion is a federal crime under the federal Controlled Substances Act. US Drug Enforcement Administration task forces investigate federal drug diversion allegations. The US Attorney’s office prosecutes federal diversion charges in federal district court.

State criminal charges

Drug diversion is also a crime under Texas state law. Diversion of a controlled substance for personal use is a state jail felony; the penalty is a fine of up to $10,000 and six months to two years in a state jail. Diversion for the benefit of another is a third-degree felony, which could mean 2-10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Professional discipline

The Texas State Board of Pharmacy handles disciplinary actions for pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and pharmacy technician trainees. If either state or federal officials charge a pharmacist with diversion, the Board may suspend his or her license pending the outcome of the investigation. The Board conducts its own disciplinary procedures. Even if a court dismisses the diversion charges, the Board may elect not to reinstate a license if the Board finds evidence of professional misconduct.

Prescription drug diversion is a serious problem and a serious charge with potentially devastating consequences for a pharmacist.