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What Is a Forensic Pharmacist?

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Simply put, forensic pharmacists are pharmacists who specialize in legal cases. They combine the science of pharmaceutical drug research with criminal justice and legal practice. They may be called upon to testify about the side effects of a drug, or they may perform research to determine the effect that a drug had in a person's death.

Legal Consultation

Most forensic pharmacists work full-time in regular pharmacy jobs and provide legal consultancy or expert witness services on a part-time basis. They may review an attorney's case and relevant medical records, then provide an expert opinion on the role that a drug played in a case. Cases might involve a car accident or a death attributed to a drug's side effect. They can testify in court about their findings or prepare a detailed report for trial. A forensic pharmacist might also testify about a medication error made by a hospital and how it contributed to a person's injury. Forensic pharmacists can work for the defendant or the plaintiff.

Non-Legal Cases

You may work as a forensic pharmacist for non-attorneys. You may help hospitals create systems for detecting drug abuse, or consult with a police department to teach officers how to better detect drug abuse in suspects. A forensic pharmacist might also offer his services to college sports teams, helping to detect drug use in players.

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Government Work

Some forensic pharmacists work full-time in the field, typically with state or federal governments or regulatory agencies. For example, some work specifically with state governments on Medicaid fraud cases. They may work for the Drug Enforcement Agency creating drug-detection methods or help the Food and Drug Administration determine dangerous side effects of new drugs.

Required Education

Forensic pharmacists typically have an advanced degree, at least at the master's level, in forensic science or forensic pharmacy. For example, you may have a doctorate in pharmacy along with master's degrees in relevant specializations, such as clinical nutrition. Some universities offer a master's of science degree in forensic science within the school's college of pharmacy. These typically cover topics such as biological analysis, trace evidence analysis, toxicology, pattern evidence and drug chemistry.

About the Author

With features published by media such as Business Week and Fox News, Stephanie Dube Dwilson is an accomplished writer with a law degree and a master's in science and technology journalism. She has written for law firms, public relations and marketing agencies, science and technology websites, and business magazines.

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