FRESNO, Calif. (FOX26) — More than a thousand people are now frustrated-- and outraged-- after the California State Board of Pharmacy chose to rule a key exam invalid, following a cheating scandal.
"I worked hard for this exam. It's unfair for me not to know my result," says Dema Askar, one of 1,400 people impacted by the board's decision.
Those who took the California Practice Standards and Jurisprudence Examination for Pharmacists (CPJE) in late July say they were told they'd receive the results in 30 to 45 days.
For many, this was the only exam that stood in their way of obtaining a Pharmacist License.
"We'd been preparing for this for four years, what they taught us at school," says Steven Nassar. "It was the better half of two months of studying for that."
Weeks later, they received an email saying there was a delay with their scores, and the results would take 60 to 90 days.
When Nassar didn't receive the results, he made a phone call to the state board.
"They informed us there was a cheating scandal and now we're in a situation where they're invalidating all of our scores," he says.
Bob Davila, spokesman for the Board of Pharmacy, tells FOX26 News the board learned more than 100 test questions and answers were leaked.
He wasn't sure when the board first learned about the cheating, but by September it was clear that it was widespread.
"It's not a question of individual scores. It's the questions themselves. The entire test is invalid," he says.
"We understand that it has been a hardship for people. This has been a hardship for the board, too. We've had to ask people to re-take it. This was caused by individuals who cheated, not the board."
That's little consolation for Nassar. "I've lost job opportunities, pharmacist wages," he says.
According to Salary.com, the average monthly salary for a pharmacist in California is anywhere between $11,000 and $14,000.
State lawmakers are now taking note.
"I'm sorry if the bureaucracy is a bit unhappy about the stress and strain on this. Can you imagine the stress and strain on individuals who are now being told that test doesn't matter?" says Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R- Clovis).
Patterson says his office has received dozens of phone calls from people affected by the cheating scandal.
Most of them-- graduates of California Health Sciences University in Clovis.
Roughly 55 students graduated from the university's four-year program in May.
"This ought to be a terrible wake up call to the Board of Pharmacy. You can't put this on auto-pilot," Patterson says. "You have the responsibility that if you are going to be given the charge, to make sure people don't cheat."
Patterson says his office brought the issue to the attention of Governor Gavin Newsom's office Tuesday.
"As Chief Executive Officer of the state, he needs to take a hands-on position on this, so we're asking him to consider using his office on behalf of those who played by the rules," Patterson said.
If the issue isn't resolved by January, Patterson says he's willing to request an audit of the Board of Pharmacy, much like he did with the California High Speed Rail Authority and the Department of Motor Vehicles.
"Nobody wants cheaters dispensing medicine. But at the same time, the Board of Pharmacy has to get its act together quickly," Patterson said.
Advocacy groups, including the California Pharmacists Association, have called on the board to release the exam scores -- and issue cease and desist orders to those who are found in violation of any state law.
"The action taken by the Board does not allow pharmacists who completed their exam ethically and satisfied all other requirements for licensure to receive their license and serve the patients in California by further delaying the process and penalizing those who are not under investigation. CPhA is very disappointed in this broad brush action taken against the entire cohort and will continue to work on behalf of the pharmacists wishing to practice in California that are directly impacted by the Board’s decision," writes the group's CEO, Jon Roth.
California Health Service University tells FOX26 News it doesn't know how many students were impacted by the cheating scandal, but, "We’ve been sending our graduates updates on the situation as information becomes available from the California State Board of Pharmacy."
The board has offered those affected another opportunity to take the exam, free of charge, in November.
"To waive the fee? That's nothing. It means nothing to me. Considering the lost wages, lost opportunities to become a benefited employee, the stress of having to study again... there is no dollar amount to it," Nassar says.
Askar says this was her third time taking the exam.
"I put in a lot of time studying for this exam. I'm scared. I only have four times attempts," Askar says. "This is critical."
Fox26 News heard from a number of others impacted by the cheating scandal.
Some say this has made them contemplate suicide.
Others say they went from planning successful careers, to applying for public assistance.
My name is Jana Laith. I am here to tell my story of how the California Board of Pharmacy invalidation of the CPJE brought me to clinical depression and have multiple attempts of suicide. I am a single mother with a very sick child. I have a $350,000 student loan to take care of. I do not know whether or not I passed the CPJE exam I took 2 months ago. At least if I did not, I would see how I can restudy and would take the exam and get my results for a retake now. Or maybe it was good news, and I had passed. Why is the CA BOP trying to ruin my life? I just lost my job today. I met my pharmacy manager and district manager to discuss things. They said and e-mailed me this today: "unfortunately, it looks like you will not get licensed for a while. If we knew or had an idea you would receive your license by or around October 31, 2019, then we would keep you on board like we had originally planned. Your contract was until August 31, 2019 and we had extended that for you as a courtesy. Unfortunately, due to the job market and the number of licensed applicants waiting to get interviewed and get hired on, we cannot continue your contract at this time. We cannot keep you on as a graduate intern either as funds will not support it further. You termination will begin November 1, 2019 as a graduate intern. We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors. Should you choose to re-apply for CVS in the near future, we would be more than happy to consider your application and screen you as a licensed pharmacist. Regards." I do not know how to support my son who has been in and out of hospital for 5 months for croup. I am not sure how waiving a $30 fee is the silver lining that the sent in their e-mail. Oh, limited time to take the test fro free. Whoopie! I am so depressed and I do not want to live. I want to commit suicide for this
. I want to die right now. I had to send my kid to my mom for a few hours because I feel like I want to cry and I cannot be strong for him right now. Yesterday I locked myself in a closet crying. I am lost and depressed. I have nothing. I am living a bad nightmare. I do not want to wake up. I want to sleep forever. My life is over. Thank you CA BOP. My life is over. I will slowly die right now.
I first sent my application to sit for the CPJE (California Law Exam) back in April of 2019 and after waiting for 4 months to schedule the actual exam i was told a different excuse every week as to why the delay. Finally after all those months of studying I was able to sit for the exam this past September. Shortly after my exam, scheduling for future exams ceased and all exams scores were placed on hold due do a possible cheating scandal back from June of 2019. After waiting close to a month for a decision on the cheating scandal thousands of us who are in so much school dept ranging around 300k and up with daily interest building, were told that after all those months of preparation and hard work our scores were all invalidated and that we would have to retake the exams. We are human beings who are being treated like sewer rats. Our entire mission is to help and serve the public to get healthier, and how can we do this with a Board that clearly does not do its job of securely administering exams and will punish thousands of struggling workers in order to make an example of less than a handful. I have personally read the stories of every member who have lost their jobs, are struggling paying bills and some who have struggled with suicide all because of this injustice. Please help us spread the word that we dont deserve to be treated this way. Thank you for your time.
My name is Jason Le Do. I would like to thank you very much for hearing us out on this injustice matter. I have attached my photos and would like to share with you my struggle due to the incompetence of California Board of PharmacyI am a currently graduate from Western University of Health Sciences, College of Pharmacy. I passed the NAPLEX which is the competency exam to be a pharmacist and just waiting for the result of CPJE. I am going to get married in December. My fiancee and I were planning our lives with the thought that I would be licensed by September, October at the latest. We have our venues, wedding and everything planned, hopeful that with me becoming a pharmacist, we can have a stronger financial support. I immigrated to the US at the age of 14 and have been working since 15. I work hard for everything that I have. Since my parents do not know English, their minimum wage job cannot support us at all. Due to Board of Pharmacy invalidating our results. I will not be licensed anytime soon. My fiancee and I have been eating into our saving, and it is running dry. We also plan to buy a house together. We got a mortgage loan approval, but that was based on my prospective salary as a pharmacist, so now we have to put a hold on that indefinitely. It has gotten to a point that my fiancee and I have discussed that I might have to move away to a different state to work, and she will have to stay in California due to her work, after our wedding. I am currently working at CVS as a graduate intern on a contract that has a condition that I should have been licensed by August 31st. I am at the mercy of my employer to keep or let me go. I constantly have the fear that I will wake up the next morning, go to work and they will let me go.
My name is Ngoc Quynh Nguyen I received your email from the CPJE Study Group on FB and I just want to reach out to offer my story. Just like many other applicants, I graduated from pharmacy school in May 2019. It took the CA Board of Pharmacy approximately 6 weeks to issue us a letter to authorize students from my school and myself the ability to take the CPJE. We got our authorization to test letter on 7/4/19 and I scheduled my CPJE exam on 7/31/19 to give myself sufficient time to review all the materials. A week before my exam, I heard a rumor that some students were caught cheating but I didn't think too much about it and never would've thought it would negatively affect my score. After completing the exam. I received a letter saying I should be getting my result within 30-45 days. After waiting, the 30-45 period has passed, I received another letter from the Board late September stating there is some delay due to suspicion of cheating and so they extended the wait time to 60-90 days as they conduct their investigation. All I could do was wait for the Board to conduct their investigation and I was hoping that once the investigation is over, I will receive my result. However, the CA BOP has not been communicating the details of their investigation to people who have been affected by this issue and as of last Friday, they issued a statement that all pending score for the CPJE has been invalidated and that all applicants need to retake the exam. As for myself, I am originally from Garden Grove, CA and I had to relocated to Bakersfield, CA this August for a job offer that requires me to be license as a pharmacist by now. I currently work for Rite Aid Pharmacy as a graduated intern but Rite Aid has a 300 hours limit that grad intern are allow to work before they become license as a pharmacist. As of this point, my 300 hours are about to be use up and chances are, I might not be able to work at all after this month. The Board said they will allow us to retake the exam at no cost but the cost to retake the exam is only $30. Who is going to pay us for all the time that has been lost? The Board clearly does not think about all the damages they are inflicting on students. If we retake the exam now, at most we will be license next year around Feb/March which is almost 10 months from graduation. The way the BOP is handling this issue is unacceptable and I ask for your help in conveying this to the media. The Board is causing more harm than good and they needs to be responsible for their actions.
My name is Shannon and this is a petition document that I wrote that contains specific details about the impact this Board of Pharmacy ruling has on us all with proposed actions that you can include as part of your story; it is more detailed than the change.org petition, which contains part of my work.
My personal story is that I recently moved to Bakersfield and I usually work 24 hours/week but my hours have since been cut to 8 hours/week; this amount is only enough to cover my rent and utilities. I'm already considering applying for other jobs so I can cover my other expenses such as food and gas, and I'm not even sure how I can start paying back my loans given my current financial situation despite being signed up for the lowest possible repayment plan. I usually have no trouble falling asleep, but lately I haven't been able to sleep well because of the anxiety over having to study and take the CPJE again and paying for all of my expenses; at most, I get 6 hours of sleep and I'm extremely exhausted from having nightmares. I just want to be able to get a good night's rest and get all of this resolved as quickly as possible, I want to be able to see my friends smile and laugh again.
I am writing you about how CPJE invalidation has negatively impacted my life. I have taken the exam on July 30th, 2019 in an honest manner. I resigned from my job to focus on studying and passing the CPJE. The interest on my loan is adding up, and my first payment is due next month. The expense of living in CA is costly; I can not afford to wait another 3-6 months for the board to grant me my license because I do need to pay for my rent, food,and utilities. How am I going to restudy for the CPJE if I am constantly afraid of becoming a homeless. CA Board of Pharmacy should have had proper measures in place to prevent cheating or at least handle cheating cases in an individualized professional manner. It is their fault that they failed to protect the test! why penalize me! The CA board is taking it's sweet time to investigate this cheating scandal and their final decision is insulting, inconsiderate and unfair to ~ 1000 recent graduates waiting to be licensed. The joke is that they did not fix the system in 2011 when that happened, and there is no guarantee that this cheating scandal will not happen again if they continue to be negligent.
I applied to get a California License in May and got my ATT number need to take my exams on July 10th. Scheduled my Naplex, board exam for Aug 2 and CPJE, law exam July 27. The Naplex results were delivered after 2 weeks, and after 1 month the Board said there were releasing sores 60-90 days. After 2 months they decided that they were was an issue with the exams. The Board then decided they will be invalidating the scores with out proof of cheating from me and many others. Now we have to wait to take the exam again. When they do let us take the exam again we will have to wait weeks to get limited slots to take the exam. There will be many repeat exam takers and also everyone that was waiting to take exams. They will not be changing the wait period (60-90 days) after the exam either, especially with the increased number of applicants. When the test results come back if i fail i will have to go through this process again. If I pass i will still have to wait another month to get my license. There will not be any new license the rest of the year at this rate. Any other state's turn around time is exponentially faster.
Thank you for picking up the story on the California Board of Pharmacy's CPJE score invalidation. I would like to take this opportunity to share with you how this has affected me personally. The following paragraph is my testimony. The paragraphs following that is some background information on the exam that you may not be aware of. I am a SoCal native. I've lived there my whole life until 5 years ago. I went to the University of Maryland, Baltimore School of Pharmacy for 4 years and practiced in that state for a year before deciding to move back. I wanted to move closer to my aging parents so that I can support them more easily should anything happen. So I saved enough money to make sure I can support myself while I prepare for the exam, take it, and wait on its results. Then the results were delayed indefinitely. Now I have to study for it again to retake it. I knew it took a long time, but I did not anticipate this extra wait. I'm not sure how long I'll be able to support myself now if I don't pass this second time. I just want to be here for the two people who raised me and now I may have to delay that indefinitely. [This might not sound like a big deal, but becoming a pharmacist in California takes a lot more time compared to other states. To even be authorized to test, you must first pay $260 for the application and another $74 for a fingerprinting service only available in California. Then you wait anywhere from 2-5 months before you receive your authorization. If you were missing something on your application, you can wait up to an additional month for them to finish processing your application. After you finally take the exam, it normally takes 2-3 months to know whether or not you passed or have to re-apply to take the exam again. By the way, all communication is done by mail, including test scores. Compare this to other states, which now do it electronically and give you scores within 3-4 business days. On top of this, the exam itself is called a jurisprudence exam, and yet it only asks a handful of questions about pharmacy law. Most of the exam is clinical and is notorious for asking some extremely specific questions that few practicing pharmacists, let alone new graduates, would know off the top of their heads. Keep in mind that all pharmacists must past a national board exam called the NAPLEX that tests us on clinical knowledge before becoming licensed.] Again, thank you so much for picking up this story. I hope that this email has been helpful. Please let me know if you need another FaceTime interview. I will be available later today should you need it.
I'm a registered pharmacist in Texas. I moved to California with my husband and my two years old son about a year ago. I knew how random was the exam and I heard so many rumors about the cheating by didn't believed it since I went through licensing in Texas and nobody even dare to think about cheating there. Anyways I put my son in daycare full time so I can study . I did so well on the exam when I came back I started looking for jobs in Irvine . I was positive I would pass. Now because of some cheaters my score is called invalid . This just shows how incompetence is the board to manage examination. They deal with very Young and smart population of newly graduated pharmacist but they do things in a terribly old and slow way. Everything must go through mail. even score results for a computer based exam wont be available till 2-3 months later. Application processing time 2-3 months! There is no understanding of how stressful the world is when you have loans, saving is gone, you need to get your license and get a job ASAP. California board of pharmacy must prove that I cheated on the exam otherwise I want my score result and license. They are so lazy to create a huge question Bank and update it, instead they have batches of questions which is obviously easy to collect after a few try. I never heard of these problems in Texas. Everything was quick organized straight forward and fair. The CPJE exam itself is a problem as well. The only organization who can determine a candidate knowledge of medications and clinical pharmacy is the NABP which is the national board of pharmacy and they do it through the board exam called NAPLEX. So CPJE supposed to be a law exam which they check candidates knowledge of medication laws and pharmacy rules and regulations in Ca. Why they still push so many difficult and random clinical questions in CPJE ? Do they not trust the NABP? Why a law exam is basically filled with out of the blue brand names and antibiotic dosing ? The board needs structural changes . It needs fresh blood fresh air. Enough is enough. We are moving back to Texas cause honestly I don't want to be part of the community of pharmacists who I can't trust anymore and I don't know how long this nonsense with the board is going to continue. I have no trust in the way they do things and I know it will happen again cause it happened before and they didn't do anything. But I will keep fighting them cause I spend a year getting ready for this exam spend thousands of dollars on daycare and study materials and this is not my fault that they are not qualified to do their job . I want my score I want my license . I appreciate your time. Thanks for being our voice in this hardship.
Huy Ta's story:
My name is Huy Ta, and I am a graduate of the University of Wyoming School of Pharmacy. In 2018 I graduated and moved back to California to try to find a job because I was originally from there and had a job offer lined up. I had studied for a whole entire year for both the NAPLEX and the CPJE and in July I took and passed my NAPLEX while I ended up failing the CPJE with a 74. While waiting to retake my CPJE, I had gotten seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident on January 1st or 2019 and was forced to undergo treatment for 5 months which set me back from studying. During the treatment period, I tried my best to study hard for the CPJE again because I knew I would be allowed to retake it soon. Finally two months after I had finished treatment, I was able to retake the CPJE again and now all of my hard work which had gone into studying for the CPJE seems like it has gone to waste because the California Board of Pharmacy invalidated all the results. My job offer was withdrawn because it was more than a year since I graduated and because my pharmacist intern license expired and would not be renewed by the board. All this time my loans have been slowly accruing and I am unable to find a job due to this unfortunate incident. Other state exams are not as difficult and time consuming as the California exam process.
I am extremely concerned by CA Board of Pharmacy’s recent unfair decision to make us all to retake the CPJE. I’m a 7-month pregnant mother, a class of 2019 pharmacy school graduate who took the CPJE honestly while she was 5- month pregnant. Now she is worried that she has to take the CPJE right before she goes into labor. The CA State Board of Pharmacy is aware that at least one person “cheated” on the CPJE as of July 19, 2019, yet has still taken no action to improve their testing methods to prevent such activity. Thousands of students including myself spent an untold number of hours studying for, traveling to, and taking the exam, as well as countless weeks waiting for their results ( it has been 2 months and 7 weeks since I took the CPJE. I was told it usually takes 2-3 weeks for previous years students to get their test scores and be licensed) On September 17, 2019, the Board of Pharmacy notified all pharmacy schools that they received information indicating that the validity and reliability of the CPJE had been compromised, announcing that consequently, they have decided to hold the release of the results. This delay is creating tremendous financial hardship for recent graduates due to reduced wages( thousands of pharmacy graduates who took the CPJE cannot work as licensed pharmacists , instead we get paid 1/2 as graduate interns and some big chain companies even refuse to let us work until we get our licenses. Many of my colleagues have their contracts terminated because some pharmacies do not want to wait for them to be licensed ), inability to apply for licensed pharmacist positions, undue emotional distress, and reduced or eliminated work hours from employers until officially licensed. Many innocent students who studied diligently for and took the CPJE have had their results invalidated, making them victims of the investigation. The Board of Pharmacy says applicants need to have the proper knowledge and training to provide proper care in California. However, many students who indeed have that knowledge and training are being immensely harmed by the Board’s actions. The Board of Pharmacy has had almost three months to investigate the situation at the cost of the candidates’ financial livelihoods. Due to the Board’s failure to conduct a proper investigation, all students within the compromised batches have to retake the CPJE. The Board of Pharmacy has punished innocent, hard-working students who deserve to have their licenses due to its inability to discover those who are truly responsible for the compromise. We urge the Board of Pharmacy to release the CPJE results of candidates for which they have no evidence of cheating in order to end the undue financial hardship brought upon by the Board’s negligent actions. Because the legal system in this country is based on the doctrine of being innocent until proven guilty, we believe it is in the Board’s best interest to release students’ results or face legal action by the thousands of impacted students seeking compensation for financial losses and emotional distress caused by the California State Board of Pharmacy’s inability to handle the situation in a timely manner.
I'm writing to you today to bring your attention to the recent actions of the California State Board of Pharmacy. Due to a suspected exam security compromise, the Board has withheld California Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (CPJE) results, delaying by up to 4 months now the ability of qualified pharmacists to become licensed in CA. The actions of the Board of Pharmacy have caused irrevocable harm to applicants in the state, ranging from financial hardship to lost or revoked job offers due to these delays. For me personally, this has resulted in inability to find a job because I have been volunteering as an intern pharmacist since 05/01/2019 until now because I am a foreign graduate, unable to extend my intern license, and I have to start the process to retake the exam and wait many months for the results. I received this message from the board today. The California State Board of Pharmacy (board) is continuing to investigate wide-scale subversion of the California Practice Standards and Jurisprudence Examination for Pharmacists (CPJE). The subversion involves instances of applicants removing and sharing exam questions with other applicants.In the meantime, all pending CPJE results have been invalidated. The board is working on a solution to allow impacted candidates a limited opportunity to retake the CPJE at no cost. The board expects to release more information about how to retake the exam within a week. For me as for foreign pharmacist, I could not find anyone that could stand with me and protect me from the ultimate power of the state board of pharmacy. They are the most mean and unprofessional organization I have ever communicated in my life. They enjoy to give you a hard time when you call to ask about anything, because they know that no one would have the right to judge them. I am looking forward to you to put my case into consideration and tell me what to do. I have been working on being a pharmacist in USA since 2013 and the board ruined everything.
Hi, my name is Tony, and I wanted to share part of my experience in regards to what is going on. Although you may be part of Fox News in the northern CA area, I am a resident of southern CA from the South Bay. I have had issues with simply applying for examination, along with everyone else. When it came to applying for the NAPLEX exam, I had sent in my transcript at the end of May. Other classmates had done the same; however, only one was able to get his approval to test (ATT) within 2 weeks without his CPJE packet being approved (it was sent 2-3 days after he sent his transcript). Everyone else (including myself) had to wait until our entire CPJE packet was processed. It took approximately 3 months to hear back about anything; other students were approved to take their exams, but I was still awaiting approval. Turns out, my transcript sent back in May was never delivered and I was informed I still needed to submit one for my ATT. Disappointed that I found out in August (nearly 3 months later), I resubmitted my transcript. The letter showed arrival in Sacrament about 4-5 days later, so I decided to call the board 2 days after that to inquire receipt of the transcript. I called for at least 3 days, always being transferred to some extension that redirected to voicemail. Turns out the person in charge of dealing with transcripts was on vacation; the person who had transferred my call never informed me until I asked why I haven't received a call back (the person that redirected the calls was the same person I spoke to for assistance in redirecting calls each day). Once another week passed, I was finally able to obtain my ATT in September, but the thing that really upset me was that after all the voicemails I had left, I received a callback 2 days after my ATT (one thing to note: I did call multiple times through June and July and never received a callback in those months). Now with the CPJE, I won't be able to take that for quite some time now since the board has decided to cancel all current and future appointments, and I am currently waiting to find out what my next action is because my current student debt is not something I can postpone forever. If it is possible, I would like to request the story to also be sent over to the Fox news station in LA county please, so that more people are aware of what is currently going on.
My name is Taylor Yasunaga and I am a pharmacy resident at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. My residency started on July 1, 2019 and 10 out of the 16 residents here (including myself) are still without a license. This is greatly hindered what we can do at work since we are not licensed. The board initially told us that the delay in scores were due to the high number of applicants and test takers, then a few months later they came out with the cheating statement. The CPJE is such a random test that studying for it while we are 4 months into residency is not a feasible option. If we fail the exam, the board requires a minimum 45 day waiting period in order to sit for the test again - but none of know if wee passed or not!!! Our residency is only 1 year long and at this point, we will go a majority of our residency NOT LICENSED. I am also interested in doing a second year residency and applications are coming up. I have been stressed with trying to deal with this and have also had a suboptimal experience at work due to not being licensed. This may put me at a disadvantage career-wise compared to other states that do not put their pharmacists through this grief. However, I am one of the lucky ones who has a job despite not being licensed. Many people have job offers being revoked because there is not end in site; their jobs may be dependent on when they can get licensed. Many people (including myself) also have a high load of student debt being recent pharmacy school grads and I can only imagine the uncertainty and stress that those people are going through; they will not be able to start paying off their loans without a job and only increase their debt. The board is concerned with the test being compromised, but from what I've heard from previous pharmacists, this is a broken test with a broken system. Cheating has occurred in the past and the board has done nothing to rectify it. They make people retake their tests to prove a point but don't offer any viable change to the test-taking process. They also have no proof that my test is compromised and just decided not to validate my score among many others. This needs to be heard because it's people's careers and livelihood on the line. Please let me know if you have any further questions.