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Diazepam diversion falls 64% as MHRA's POM investigation continues

The diversion of "top strength" diazepam onto the black market is down 64% as part of ongoing investigations which have encompassed pharmacies, the medicines watchdog has said.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) announced in January that it had identified “an extensive network of criminality” diverting prescription-only medicines to be sold illegally online between 2013 and 2016.

The network involves “businesses such as wholesale dealers and a small number of registered pharmacies” across the UK, the watchdog said at the time – although the BBC claimed 50 pharmacies had been implicated.

The watchdog announced this morning (April 11) that trading in diazepam 10mg “is down 64%, as the MHRA and partners work hard to stop illegal diversion of medicines to the black market”.

An analysis of bulk orders of “diverted medicines” between January and May 2017, compared with the same period in 2016, revealed that the MHRA’s “crack down” is “working”, it claimed.

As well as the drop in diazepam, trading of nitrazepam fell by 24%, “top strength” temazepam by 20% and zolpidem by 14%, it added.

Pregabalin also being monitored

The MHRA is also monitoring bulk orders of pregabalin, gabapentin and tramadol “at all strengths, in tablet form”.

The watchdog said it is currently running 17 active investigations – two less than in January – and has so far made 44 arrests – four more since that month.

It would not confirm to C+D if these arrests included any pharmacists.

In January, the General Pharmaceutical Council told C+D it had “already taken action to suspend five pharmacists under interim orders” in relation to the MHRA’s investigation, but would not reveal their names.

Are you aware of patients buying POMs illegally?

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