05 December 2018

General counsel put in spotlight of the opioid crisis

State gc could be earning up to ten times her $130k salary in private sector, but says she is happy helping people in midst of opioid epidemic.

While various corporate interests and injured plaintiffs seek big pay days, one general counsel has been profiled by The Texas Lawbook as perhaps the single most important Texas lawyer involved in the opioid epidemic.

Battle of a lifetime

Kerstin Arnold, general counsel of the Texas State Board of Pharmacy, in two decades has helped rewrite state regulations for pharmacies and pharmacists, guided leading reforms through the Texas Legislature, led a crackdown on illegal internet prescription operations and presided over thousands of investigations and enforcement actions. Ms Arnold told The Texas Lawbook  she and her agency are in a ‘battle of a lifetime’ involving opioid abuse, explaining ‘it is bad, it causes me to lose a lot of sleep, adding that in the US ‘between 170 and 190 people are dying daily. That’s the equivalent to a 737 jetliner crashing every day.’ However, the paper reports she and her team are quietly enacting significant reforms to the state's prescription drug databases and monitoring programs that are showing definite signs of success.

'Happy where I am'

Arnold oversees a staff of six lawyers and 10 legal assistants receives over 6,000 complaints and handles over 500 disciplinary cases a year against pharmacies, pharmacists and technicians. About half of the disputes involve pharmacists or their technicians engaging in illegal activity, such as stealing drugs or falsifying records. Another 25 percent of the cases deal with various forms of malpractice, including dispensing errors or failing to provide proper counseling. Ms Arnold singles out the opioid crisis as ‘a huge crisis beyond comprehension.’ The paper reports that legal industry analysts say her experience and reputation as a national expert on pharmacy law qualifies her for elite legal positions in the private sector that would pay her up to 10 times her current $130,000 salary. However, ‘I’m happy where I am.’ Ms Arnold told The Texas Lawbook in an exclusive interview, ‘it is extremely rewarding to do what I am doing, trying to change the world for the better.’