What happens when my doctor loses her license?

Patients have many questions about what to do if their doctor dies, loses his/her license to practice medicine, or moves to a different area.  Pharmacists are also put in a bind because of their legal duty to fill prescriptions from practitioners authorized by law to practice medicine. For a prescription to be valid and meet the basic requirements to be filled, there must be a bona fide, ongoing, doctor-patient relationship.  When that relationship terminates for whatever reason, what happens to prescriptions that may still have refills, but the patient is not due to return to the provider any time soon?

It is not that the pharmacist doesn’t want the patient to have his/her medicine. Quite the opposite, in fact.  There is no “gotcha” game that pharmacists play to try to get points for finding ways not to dispense a prescription to a patient.  In Mississippi, here is what the Board of Medical Licensure administrative rules say about medications (new prescriptions and refills) and when a prescription in no longer valid and, consequently, cannot be filled or refilled by a pharmacist:

Rule 1.11 Prescription Guidelines – All Medications. In addition to any other requirements set forth in these rules pertaining to the issuance of prescriptions of controlled substances, the following additional requirements apply to all prescriptions, whether or not said prescriptions are for controlled substances, legend drugs or any other medication:

G. A prescription shall no longer be valid after the occurrence of any one of the following events:
1. Thirty (30) days after the death of the issuing physician.
2. Thirty (30) days after the issuing physician has moved or otherwise changed the location of his or her practice so as to terminate the doctor/patient relationship. Termination of the doctor/patient relationship results when a patient is no longer able to seek personal consultation or treatment from the issuing physician.
3. Insofar as controlled substances are concerned, immediately after loss of DEA Controlled Substances Privilege by the issuing physician.
4. Immediately after revocation, suspension or surrender of the physician’s license.

Thus, there are many ways prescriptions that have been written by your prescriber and that you have been taking for many years may no longer be fillable by the pharmacy.  When these things happen, the patient needs to find another provider who can write the prescriptions for the patient going forward. This is Mississippi law and is not your pharmacist’s fault.  The law applies to everyone, yourself included.  Make the effort before you run out of medication to avoid any gap in taking your medications.  As with most everything else in life, you are responsible for your own well being.  Trying to shift this responsibility to your pharmacist will only delay the process.

Thanks to the Mississippi Board of Pharmacy for sharing this information with me.  This came in response to a physician who is prohibited to practice medicine in Mississippi.  If you have any questions, please feel free to call my office at 662-350-3971.

James P. Tinsley, Rph., J.D.

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