License Defense for Virginia Pharmacists

The Joys And Challenges Of Being A Virginia Pharmacist

Virginia pharmacists lead busy careers, filled with rewards and challenges. People are drawn to becoming pharmacists for a multitude of reasons: Pharmacists are well respected because they help people. They have plenty of employment opportunities located all around the country; and of course, in many parts of Virginia there's the lure of the six-figure salary.

Yet working as a pharmacist can be incredibly stressful. Long hours and heavy workloads can drain the stamina of even the most dedicated professional. This sometimes results in the kinds of clerical oversights and on-the-job mistakes that result in complaints to the Virginia Department of Health, which in turn directs the complaint to the Virginia Board of Pharmacy.

Anyone can file a complaint against a licensed pharmacist with the Virginia Department of Health. While frivolous complaints generally go nowhere, a serious complaint will lead to a Board inquiry that can generate a cascade of problems including personal shame, strain in your personal and professional relationships, and a threat to your livelihood.

Once the Virginia Board of Pharmacy determines that a pharmacist has violated state or federal laws and regulations, it can impose fines, probation, suspension–and even license revocation, which will destroy a pharmacist's career.

Dealing with the Virginia Board of Pharmacy on your own can be intimidating and frustrating. The Board's mission is to protect the public. If the facts are ambiguous (as is often the case), its staff members are not inclined to give a pharmacist the benefit of the doubt.

Pharmacists who try to deal with the Virginia Board of Pharmacy on their own often find themselves in much worse situations than if they'd retained an experienced Virginia pharmacist-license defense lawyer. That's why so many Virginia pharmacists contact the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team. A member of the Virginia pharmacist defense team can:

  • explain how the Virginia Department of Health's pharmacist discipline system works;
  • help you understand your rights;
  • guide you through the process; and
  • provide you with a strong defense.

Don't risk losing your Virginia pharmacist license. Call the Lento Law Firm toll-free at 888-535-3686 or click here.

Pharmacists in Virginia

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, pharmacists in Virginia earn a comfortable living with some of the highest industry wages in the country. Nevertheless, they're not immune to national economic trends. Inflation and medical-industry consolidation have made pharmacists' jobs tougher. For example, many commercial pharmacies have sought to rein in rising costs by assigning fewer pharmacists to a shift. When only one pharmacist is on duty and the backup staff lacks the proper training to ensure that prescriptions are filled properly, the pharmacist is more likely to make the kinds of mistakes that can lead to violations of state and federal rules.

Common Reasons Virginia Pharmacists Can Be Cited For License Violations

Common violations that lead to complaints include prescription errors, failure to keep accurate records, and drug diversion.

Prescription Errors

Prescription errors may encompass:

  • dispensing the wrong medication;
  • dispensing the correct medication in the wrong amount; and
  • labeling medications incorrectly.

Any of these mistakes can lead to serious consequences. Whenever adverse patient health reactions are traced back to the pharmacy that dispensed the medication, then regardless of who made the mistake, the pharmacist in charge must deal with the consequences.

Failure to Maintain Accurate Records

The failure to maintain accurate records is another common source of Virginia Board of Pharmacy citations. State and federal regulations require that pharmacists:

  • verify that the patient information they have on file is correct;
  • make sure every prescription is filled accurately; and
  • maintain complete records of all controlled substances that are delivered to and taken out of the pharmacy.

But when pharmacies are short-staffed, the pressures of juggling an onslaught of medication orders while simultaneously responding to patient questions can lead to distracted recordkeeping, mistakes, and the failure to input crucial information. All these violate federal DEA regulations and can lead to sanctions.

Drug Diversion

Drug diversion encompasses any situation in which a drug or controlled substance is diverted from its intended path from the manufacturer to the pharmacy, and ultimately to the intended patient. Previously this often happened when patients forged prescriptions on doctors' pads. With the prescription process largely online these days, drug diversion is now more often due to a pharmacist's failure to properly track the movement of prescription medications into and out of secured storage, which can facilitate theft. For example, the Virginia Board of Pharmacy found that one Virginia pharmacy had failed to keep its storage area locked, enabling non-pharmacists to remove medications and sell them outside the pharmacy.

Additional Threats To Virginia Pharmacists' Licenses

Other ways pharmacists have gotten into trouble with the Virginia Pharmacy Board include dispensing medications for unauthorized uses or without a valid prescription, coding errors, billing mistakes and other financial record-keeping errors, and HIPAA violations that involve breaches of confidentiality.

Pharmacists can become the innocent targets of investigations when they become entangled in outsiders' misconduct; such as when a patient presents a valid ID for a valid prescription, which is then diverted to harmful purposes after leaving the pharmacist's control.

Virginia Department of Health inspectors periodically conduct unannounced, drop-in inspections at pharmacies to check up on whether the pharmacists are following all proper procedures. These inspections have uncovered violations such as:

  • Failure to monitor or document repackaging or bulk packaging of prescription drugs;
  • Failure to document inventories between incoming and outgoing pharmacist shifts;
  • Failure to maintain “perpetual inventory,” the software-aided inventory-management system that records each stock movement;
  • Failure to properly submit applications to the Virginia Board of Pharmacy when the pharmacist in charge changes;
  • Failure to install a secure lock on the door leading to the prescription drugs room

The Virgina Legislature has authorized the Virginia Board of Pharmacy to impose sanctions for such lapses, even if no harmful consequences result.

The Lento Law Firm's Pharmacist License Defense Team Vigorously Defends Virginia Pharmacists Against Investigations

Complaints against pharmacists are filed with Virginia's Department of Health Professions (DHP), which is tasked with monitoring Virginia's licensed health professionals. It's nerve-wracking to receive a letter from the DHP informing you someone has filed a complaint against you. That's where the Lento Law Firm Team can step in and help. The best time to contact the Lento Law Firm Virginia Pharmacist License Defense Team is as soon as that letter arrives. Early action will not only ease your anxiety, it will also put the Virginia Board of Pharmacy on notice that you have a trained, experienced legal professional advocating on your behalf. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686,or submit your details online, and we will contact you.

The Investigation Process

All complaints that fall within DHP's jurisdiction are recorded in the department tracking system. Those that are found to be credible are assigned to investigators and inspectors who contact potential witnesses and collect copies of relevant documents. Investigators are required to maintain strict confidentiality, except to the extent necessary to further the investigation.

The DHP generally begins its investigations within three months of the complaint being filed, with a goal of making a final determination within 250 business days, roughly a year.

Once the investigation has concluded, DHP personnel summarize the complaints they consider worth pursuing, and send the summaries to the Virginia Board of Pharmacy for consideration. If the Board decides to take action, they will notify the pharmacist. The Board permit pharmacists to hire lawyers to help them defend themselves against disciplinary charges.

Virginia Pharmacist License Defense Is Different From Criminal Defense

Some criminal-defense lawyers offer their services as license-defense lawyers, under the premise that license defense is similar to criminal defense. Do not make the mistake of relying on a criminal-defense lawyer to help you with this matter. Criminal-law procedures are entirely different than administrative law procedures, and any lawyer whose primary practice is criminal defense will find themselves at sea when they try to deal with the Virginia Department of Health.

The Lento Law Firm's Virginia Pharmacist Defense Team focuses exclusively on representing medical professionals before the Virginia Department of Health. They can:

  • Act as your official legal representative
  • Gather evidence and witnesses in your favor
  • Develop a strong defense to the complaint against you
  • Negotiate with the Virginia Board of Pharmacy to either have the complaint dismissed or to agree to leniency
  • Defend you aggressively at a hearing, if needed.

If your pharmacist-license defense attorney is unable to resolve the matter through correspondence with the Virginia Board of Pharmacy, the next step is an informal conference. The Board offers two types of informal conferences aimed at resolving the matter expeditiously–either of which, depending on the outcome, may lead to a formal hearing. One type of informal conference is presided over by an agency subordinate, the other by a special conference committee (SCC) comprising Board of Pharmacy staff and an adjudication specialist. Your lawyer can advise you as to which type of informal hearing would be best for your particular situation.

Important: If the pharmacist fails to appear at the initial informal hearing, the case will be removed from the agency's jurisdiction, and the pharmacist's only recourse to save their license will be to appeal to a Commonwealth of Virginia Circuit Court. Virginia court procedures are lengthier, more complicated, and more expensive than Virginia Board of Pharmacy hearings.

If you opt for the first type of conference, a single agency representative will ask you questions, and your attorney can advise you on your responses. Afterwards, the Board representative will consult with colleagues and supervisors to determine whether to pursue the matter further.

With the second type of informal conference, you will be questioned by SCC members, by Board of Pharmacy staff, and by the adjudication specialist themselves. Afterwards the questioners will go into a closed meeting to discuss the matter. To ensure that outcomes are consistent and nonarbitrary, the Virginia Board of Pharmacy has devised a series of Sanctioning Reference Points they use to evaluate the facts and the circumstances. These are totaled up to determine the pharmacist's degree of culpability, after which they issue their decision.

The Board may decide to exonerate the pharmacist and close the case. Alternatively, they may impose a monetary penalty, probation, or revocation of the pharmacist's license. If one of these happens, you may request a formal administrative hearing before the Virginia Board of Pharmacy.

Alternatively, Virginia Board of Pharmacy staff may refer the matter to the entire Board for a formal administrative hearing. Unlike either of the informal conferences, the hearing will be open to the public. Each side may present witnesses to be questioned by Board members, by the assistant Virginia Attorney General, or by the adjudication specialist. Before questioning begins, all witnesses must swear to tell the truth. The trial outcome is determined in closed session.

If the outcome is unfavorable, you are entitled to appeal the matter to a Commonwealth of Virginia Circuit Court.

How Long Will It Take For Them To Make A Decision?

Both types of informal meetings allow up to 90 days for a decision to be passed on to the Board of Pharmacy and then transmitted to you.

With a formal hearing, the Board will generally take a few days. Once they come to a determination, they will announce it in an open meeting and mail it to the pharmacist in the form of an Order.

The Lento Law Firm Team Can Provide You With the Experienced, Zealous Advocacy You Deserve

Your Virginia pharmacist license is too important to leave to chance.

Let the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team take the burden of defending your license off your shoulders. We can start work on your case right away. Call the Lento Law Firm toll-free at 888-535-3686 or click here.


Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm are committed to answering your questions about Physician License Defense, Nursing License Defense, Pharmacist License Defense, Psychologist and Psychiatrist License Defense, Dental License Defense, Chiropractic License Defense, Real Estate License Defense, Professional Counseling License Defense, and Other Professional Licenses law issues nationwide.
The Lento Law Firm will gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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