Is this even Justice?

Very recently in Ontario, two senior executives of a major club member of Big Pharmacy Retail (BPR) were found guilty of professional misconduct by their Ontario Regulatory Body.  Their “misdemeanor”?  The company they worked for allegedly had received $1.2M in “rebates” from a generic drug company for the usual well known reasons; in Ontario, such “rebates, professional allowances, kickbacks etc.” are illegal.  As a result of these received monies, the company was able to reduce their dispensing fee to under $4.00, the company offerred.  It is assumed therefore, that if the company could get even more such monies, the company could take their dispensing fee to zero.

This sounds more like a public service rather than a misdemeanor, never mind that such marketing actions reduce the monetary value of pharmaceutical service to zero as well.   But that is another story.

The two executives were fined a combined $40,000, which, considering the company got to keep the $1.2M, means a ROI of 3,000%.  Indeed a very good return; this hardly represents a disincentive to others.  But that is another story.

What appears passing strange, is that when cursory research is conducted on all of the disciplinary decisions that this disciplinary body (and likely other provincial regulatory bodies as well) has taken against individual practicing pharmacists for other actions deemed “professional misconduct”, the punishment appears to be way out of proportion.

When a pharmacist is caught charging insurance companies, or the Ontario government, for medications not actually dispensed (clearly fraud), the punishment is deservedly severe.  Usually the fine is around 5 to 10 thousand dollars, plus regulatory costs of 4 or 5 thousand, plus suspension for 3 to 6 months, plus obligatory remedial courses…say a total of $30,000 at least.  Considering that in Ontario pharmacists’ compensation has fallen considerably below $100,000, this sum represents a major blow to a small business/practitioner on a percentage basis.  Tough cookie, and deserved.

Compared to the BPR example above however, the level of punishment could not be more dramatic.  Why is this?  Could it depend on the dollars it takes to hire the best lawyers?  Could it depend on the public sympathy towards the particular misdemeanor?  Could it be the attitude or sympathy of government?  Could it be the size or power of the party committing the misdemeanor? One could speculate, but one cannot ignore the apparent uneven hand of justice meted out.

Even if you are not a hunter, it does not take rocket science to figure out that shooting sitting ducks paddling in a pond, is a heck of a lot easier than going after a male rogue elephant in the bush.