California authorities have invalidated test scores of 1,400 pharmacists because more than 100 questions from the state licensing exam were leaked online.
The State Board of Pharmacy has decided that anyone who took the exam since July will have to retake it, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.
"We are fully aware of how destructive it's been for them, but we're a consumer protection agency," said board spokesman Bob Davila. "We want to make sure that anyone who does get a license in California is in fact competent to take care of California patients."
The board became aware of potential widespread cheating in September and decided to withhold test results for those who recently took the exam.
It announced this week that those results will be invalidated and that people can retake the test on Nov. 16 or Nov. 17 with the $30 fee waived.
"The board sincerely regrets that the actions of some are negatively impacting the lives of many," a board statement said. "The board must, however, address the impact of the subversion on the examination's validity."
The state exam tests pharmacists' familiarity with California laws. To become licensed, pharmacists must pass the state exam and a national exam that focuses on clinical skills.
The decision has caused an uproar among those who had expected to begin their careers after years of costly pharmacy school.
Steven Nassar, 29, of Los Angeles told the Times he lost an opportunity with a major healthcare provider when the results from his July exam did not come through by September.
Nassar said he is trying to negotiate with his loan servicer to delay the beginning of payment on more than $277,000 in student debt.
"It's hard to come by these kind of positions, and it's frustrating that we have go through this," he said. "And then with our loans kicking in in November for most of us, it's daunting."
Layla Mina, 28, of Anaheim said a pharmacy job offer was rescinded because she could not become licensed and she now works at a mall clothing store.
Mina said people who retake the exam next month are not likely to be licensed until next year.
"It's not really fair to any of us," she said.
State Assemblyman Jim Patterson, a Republican, said there has to be a better process than retesting.
"They're throwing thousands of people under the bus who played by the rules — they didn't cheat and yet they're being treated as if they did," he said.
Davila said the agency will continue to consider the issue.
Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com/