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Just 10 pharmacies slammed with codeine linctus-related enforcement actions in 2021

Significantly fewer pharmacies have faced codeine-related enforcement action in 2021 compared with 2020, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has told C+D.

While the GPhC cautioned that the data for the last quarter of 2021 is incomplete, it told C+D last week that as of December 10, it had carried out 10 codeine-related enforcement actions against pharmacy premises. 

This compares with a total of 32 codeine-related enforcements the regulator had completed in the final six months of 2020.

The GPhC began taking codeine linctus enforcement activity in the first half of 2019 but only started “codeine-related enforcement” from July 2020, a GPhC spokesperson specified.


“Greater use of communication”


Codeine linctus – a pharmacy (P) medicine – “is known to be liable to misuse and addiction without adequate safeguards and monitoring”, according to the GPhC.

The regulator's spokesperson told C+D today (December 13) that the regulator has “continued to adapt” its approach to the issue, “to ensure that pharmacies are making supplies of higher risk medicines safely and appropriately”.

They added: “In 2021, there has been much greater use of communication and engagement to anticipate problems in individual pharmacies and to raise awareness of issues across the whole sector to enhance patient safety.”

The regulator has undertaken months of work to curb the “high purchase numbers of codeine linctus” from some pharmacies.

C+D reported earlier this year that the GPhC had told 10 online pharmacies to stop supplying the drug after intelligence-led inspections identified “serious risks to patient safety”.


Increased engagement with LPCs


At a Sigma Pharmaceuticals webinar last month, Claire Bryce-Smith, the GPhC's director of insight, intelligence and inspection, revealed that in an effort to reduce enforcement action, the regulator is sharing what it learns from its investigations into the sale of codeine linctus with local pharmaceutical committees (LPCs).

A spokesperson for the GPhC told C+D today: “We have worked closely with LPCs to deliver 16 webinar presentations this year to support this programme of work.”

“Where we have received intelligence that suggests there are serious patient safety risks, our inspectors have taken enforcement action promptly to keep people safe,” they added.

In April, the GPhC told C+D that fitness-to-practice cases were “ongoing” following the death by “excess consumption of codeine” of former practice nurse, Katie Emma Corrigan.

Meanwhile, in a poll conducted by C+D earlier this year, pharmacy professionals voted overwhelmingly in support of the reclassification of codeine linctus from P to a prescription-only medicine.


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