Health & Medicine

Cheating on California pharmacy exam causes state to void test, delaying job starts

About 1,400 people waiting to begin careers as pharmacists will have to re-take a state certification exam because the California State Board of Pharmacy invalidated a test after discovering suspected cheating.

More than 100 exam questions were “improperly shared and made public by electronic means,” according to board spokesman Bob Dávila.

“The board cannot discuss individuals involved in cheating because the investigation is ongoing,” he said.

The board is offering applicants the chance to retake the test, for free.

It is one of dozens of California professional licensing boards that regulate careers ranging from cosmetologists to real estate appraisers and veterinarians. The boards are overseen by the California Department of Consumer Affairs.

The board’s decision was met with criticism, including from the California Pharmacists Association.

““We really think their response to the situation is a broad overreach,” said the association’s chief executive officer, Jon Roth.

Roth wrote a letter to the board, expressing his organization’s disappointment with the decision, which Roth called arbitrary and capricious.

“These pharmacists are being denied their due process. Pharmacists from accredited pharmacy programs in California, from programs around the country, licensed pharmacists practicing in other states relocating to California, and international graduates are being penalized for the actions of a few, without providing any evidence of wrongdoing,” Roth wrote in his letter to the board.

Roth called on the board to reconsider its decision, to release the test scores, license those who passed and investigate and punish anyone found to have cheated.

The board in a written statement said it did not want to risk licensing applicants who failed to meet the minimum level of necessary competency.

“Based on these principles, the board cannot accept the exams relying on the exposed questions as a valid measure of competency to safely practice as a pharmacist,” the statement concluded.

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Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for the Sacramento Bee. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.