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Pharmacist jailed for diverting controlled drugs to black market

A pharmacist who illegally supplied controlled drugs to “criminal associates” on the black market has been sentenced to 28 months in prison.

Jaspar Ram Singh Ojela (registration number 2047845), 56, owner of a pharmacy in Dudley, received the sentence at Wolverhampton Crown Court on Monday (January 13), after a Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) investigation concluded he had illegally diverted class B and C drugs.

Between February and September 2016, Mr Ojela purchased more than 200,000 doses of drugs such as diazepam, zolpidem and zopiclone from two wholesalers, which he later admitted to police he then diverted to “associates operating in the black market”, the MHRA said.

The drugs had an estimated street value of £280,490, said the watchdog, which also explained that Mr Ojela received payment from his black market associates.

Mr Ojela later pleaded guilty to the offences at a court hearing on November 1, 2019, it said.

Investigation

MHRA investigators became suspicious when an audit of a UK wholesaler reported that “the sale of medicines classified as controlled drugs had not been recorded as such within the company’s management system”.

The resulting investigation suggested that these drugs – “opiate painkillers, tranquillisers and medications intended for the treatment of cancer” – were purchased by criminal groups, which were “cloning the identity of genuine pharmaceutical companies located overseas and licensed pharmacies”.

The cancer medications involved are valuable on the criminal market as bodybuilders use them to “counteract the unwanted effects of other hormone medications”, the MHRA explained.

MHRA investigations “proved that Mr Ojela was part of the scheme”, it added.

“A serious criminal offence”

The MHRA is taking legal action against Mr Ojela to “recover the proceeds of his offending”. Meanwhile, the General Pharmaceutical Council has placed an interim suspension order on the registrant and told C+D it will now begin its own investigation to determine Mr Ojela’s fitness to practise.

MHRA head of enforcement Mark Jackson said: “It is a serious criminal offence to sell controlled drugs which are also prescription only medicines (POMs) without a prescription.”

“Those who sell medicines illegally are exploiting vulnerable people and have no regard for their health,” he added. “POMs are potent and should only be taken under medical supervision.”

The MHRA confirmed to C+D that Mr Ojela’s pharmacy was one of the 25 pharmacies “under various stages of investigation” last year for their role in illegal POM diversion.

Are you aware of patients buying POMs from illegitimate websites?

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