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Nevada Pharmacy Board probe finds background checks lacking

The state board that licenses and regulates Nevada pharmacies has only erratically conducted mandatory criminal background checks of drug wholesalers, going as far back as 2007, Gov. Steve Sisolak revealed Tuesday.

Despite the lapse, the state Board of Pharmacy still collected fees from applicants related to the screening process, Sisolak said in a briefing in Carson City. The governor said he had ordered the board to return unspent background-check fees to applicants or transfer untraceable funds to the state’s unclaimed property account.

The potential health and safety impacts of the board’s lapse were not immediately clear following Tuesday’s briefing. The governor and other officials Tuesday stressed that a five-month investigation into the board’s activities is continuing. They declined to get into other specifics, citing the ongoing probe.

But Sisolak said that more of the state’s 31 occupational licensing boards could face similar scrutiny.

“The Pharmacy Board is not the only state licensing board in Nevada that deserves an in-depth review,” the governor said in written remarks. “My administration is aware of allegations related to other state boards and we share serious concerns over what appears to be a pattern displaying a lack of oversight and accountability.”

Sisolak said the state Department of Public Safety told him in early May that the pharmacy board had routinely failed to follow a 2005 law requiring drug wholesalers to be fingerprinted as part of the licensing process and their prints submitted to a state database for criminal background checks.

The law was enacted to fight drug counterfeiting. A subsequent review found that the board’s failure to submit fingerprints “had been flagged multiple times over the years,” the governor said.

In addition to a law enforcement investigation, the governor sought an emergency audit of the board and instituted a moratorium on wholesale drug licensing. Auditors found the board in compliance with procedures following the initial investigation.

The governor said Tuesday he had lifted the licensing moratorium and instructed the pharmacy board, whose members he appoints, to “hold accountable those who failed in their statutory obligations to protect the health and safety of Nevadans.”

The chairman of the seven-member board, Jason Penrod, resigned earlier this month, the governor’s office said.

In a nod to pharmacists, the governor said he did not want the board’s negligence “to poorly reflect on those who show up to work every day and perform their duties with the utmost integrity and professionalism.” He said the investigation would remain open as new board appointees correct remaining deficiencies.

Contact Bill Dentzer at bdentzer@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-0661. Follow @DentzerNews on Twitter.

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